A Friend For George

A Friend For George

A Friend For George










A Friend For George

Gabriel Evans

Puffin, 2023

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


George likes living by the sea, but he often feels lonely. He’d like to have a friend – someone to talk to, someone to share stories with and someone to laugh with. As that’s what friends do!  When he meets Claude the fish, George finally discovers the joys of having a special friend, as well as learning what it means to be a good friend to someone . . . especially when there is a conflict between what you want and what your friend needs.

Despite George being a dog and Claude being  fish in this anthropomorphic story, young children will relate to the characters as they, too, navigate  the making and keeping of friends which can be tricky at times.  It opens up the opportunities for discussions about what it is friends do – a phrase repeated often throughout the story – and how we need to learn to be unselfish and put the needs of others before ourselves.  

Often the greatest concern for those starting big school is the fear of having no friends and having no one to play with, so these sorts of books serve a need to help them learn how to make and keep friends so that by the time they step into the Kindergarten classroom, they have knowledge and strategies to draw on. To consolidate what they know they can create a class mural pf photos of being a good friend in action, not only repeating the phrase in the book but making them consciously aware of their interactions and relationships.

One to purchase and have on hand as transitions to new situations loom.

The Moon Is a Ball

The Moon Is a Ball

The Moon Is a Ball











The Moon Is a Ball

Ed Franck

Thé Tjong-Khing

Gecko Press, 2023

80pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


Panda and Squirrel have an unbreakable friendship. They can’t live without each other and do everything together: lie on the rocks to look at the moon, take walks, play games. One of their journeys lasts for only two steps, another day they discover a newly hatched duckling. But like most friends, sometimes they argue but they always make up again.

This is a book of nine short stories about the responsibilities and rewards of friendship, helping younger children understand that you don’t always have to like the same things as your friend or agree with everything they say or do to remain friends.  That sometimes the richest friendships are those built on the differences that each brings to the relationship. After all, could there be aby combination more physically different than a panda and a squirrel? 

Translated from the Dutch edition by David Colmer, and richly illustrated it offers many opportunities for discussion, including asking the child what they might do in a similar circumstance.

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall

The Wolves of Greycoat Hall










The Wolves of Greycoat Hall


Boris in Switzerland


Lucinda Gifford

Walker Books, 2020-2023

240pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99

When Boris and his parents Randall and Leonora learn that the Scottish Conservation Society is re-introducing wolves into the wilds of Scotland, they leave their mansion in Morovia for their Scottish homeland. But these wolves aren’t planning to settle in the wild, oh no! Instead, they book into the exclusive Highland Hotel, from where they plan to enjoy Scotland’s best tourist spots and cuisine. But is Scotland ready for holidaying wolves? Especially such hungry ones? While some scarcely notice them as though wolves in a hotel are an everyday occurrence, there are certain people unhappy to see them -and with good reason. From spooky dungeons to scheming developers, the Greycoats’ new adventure is full of surprising discoveries.

This is a new series for young independent readers and in the second adventure Boris, who can speak English, French, Prussian and Morovian is attending the Institute of International Excellence, a fancy Swiss boarding school while his parents are staying with Great Aunt Orfilia who has injured herself and needs their help.. Although worried about being the only wolf, and having to navigate around the rude vice principal, he quickly makes friends, learns how to “log in” and heli-board, and has a plentiful supply of cake, Boris can’t shake the idea that something funny is going on and it is his father’s book The Art of the Wolf that helps him solve the mystery.  

Even though this may seem a daunting read for young readers, it has lots of illustrations to support them as they go, enjoying sharing Boris’s adventures as he grapples with being judged for what he is rather than what he can do. Discrimination based on appearance is a core theme of the series as is working together to overcome injustice and greed,

With wolves being a popular focus among young and old, this is one that would be good being shared between parent and child (or teacher and class) as they immerse themselves seamlessly into a world that is a mix of real0life and fantasy.  

Hercules Quick’s Big Bag of Tricks

Hercules Quick's Big Bag of Tricks

Hercules Quick’s Big Bag of Tricks











Hercules Quick’s Big Bag of Tricks

Ursula Dubosarsky

Andrew Joyner

A & U Children’s, 2023

224pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


One day while out shopping with his Aunt Alligator, Hercules Quick spies a magic box in a shop window, one that he knows he would love to own.  And while he is dismayed that he not only doesn’t have any money of his own in his piggy bank, he doesn’t even have a piggy bank, he is not daunted.  He gets out his paints and makes a sign offering to do jobs for his neighbours for 10c a task. He explains to Aunt Alligator that 10 cents a day will be a dollar in 10 days and that’s $310 in 10 months – surely enough to buy the magic box.

But quirky neighbours mean quirky jobs and he has to work hard to  earn his money.  Will he reach his target?  And will he still want the magic box if he does?

In this compendium comprising the first two stories in the series, Ask Hercules Quick and The Magnificent Hercules Quick  as well as a new story, younger, independent readers can  enjoy meeting this little lad who is much like them and consider its message about saving and savouring the anticipation of waiting, rather than the more prevalent one-click, instant gratification society we seems to have moved to. It also includes instructions for some of Hercules’s magic tricks for those who have a hankering to try.  

Something whimsical and fun for a winter’s afternoon.  

Tap! Tap! Tap!

Tap! Tap! Tap!

Tap! Tap! Tap!











Tap! Tap! Tap!

Hervé Tullet

A & U Children, 2023

64pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99


When you see Hervé Tullet’s name on a book cover, you know the littlest readers in your life are about to have an interactive, imaginary treat!  The author of Press HereMix it UpLet’s Play,  and Play This Book   is back with another invitation for little hands to follow the instructions and delight in the movements they can make as it weaves in and out and around and over coloured dots, circles and lines..

“Ready? Place your hand here. Close your eyes. Concentrate. Hit it! Three times: Tap! Tap! Tap!”

As with the others, Tullet speaks directly to the reader encouraging them to  follow instructions and talk about what happens when they do  They are in charge of their fingers so they are empowered to follow (or not) consolidating that vital message that reading is fun and can be done by anyone, while developing those essential fine motor skills and instilling the left-to-right nature of reading as a natural direction.  

Full of whimsy and fun, this is one that should be in any preschooler’s realm.  They will be reading it for themselves in no time at all, strengthening their belief that they, too, can be readers. 

When The War Came Home

When The War Came Home

When The War Came Home











When The War Came Home

Lesley Parr

Bloomsbury, 2022

320pp., pbk., RRP $A16.99


Wales, 1920. Twelve-year-old Natty is quite happy living with her mam in their flat, going to the village school with its yummy free lunches, and special fish and chip teas on Fridays just like her dad used to do when he was alive. 

But when her activist mum loses her job for sticking up for the workers’ rights, and they are forced to move in with relatives in a nearby village, things change dramatically.  Firstly, she has to share a room, even a bed, with her cousin Nerys who is very bright and never stops talking.  Then there are the unpredictable Huw who lied about his age to enlist but who has come home a totally different 17 year old suffering from shell-shock, and the mysterious “Johnny”, another young lad who has returned from the Western Front but who has no idea who he is or where he came from.  She also has to attend a school ruled over by a brutal principal who uses his cane freely, particularly on those who are poor and hungry because there are no free dinners at this village school because their provision is the prerogative of the local council.

Even though she is angry at her mother’s desire to right wrongs that are not even her problem because of the impact it has on her own life, Natty is surprised to find herself drawn into a student strike demanding free school lunches so those who don’t have enough to eat can think about their studies rather than their stomachs. Perhaps she is more like her mother than she realises.  But it is her friendship with both Huw and Johnny that has the most profound effect on all their lives, particularly as the message about never giving up is one that comes from all angles.

Once again, Lesley Parr takes the reader back in time to an era of Welsh history, but, as with The Valley of Lost Secrets and  Where the River Takes Us , the issues she addresses will resonate with today’s readers.  For although World War I is over a century ago, many children will know someone who is experiencing PTSD  or the impact of some extraordinary trauma -or it may even be themselves- and so they empathise and perhaps find a little more compassion. And even though women now have the vote and workers have rights, this can serve as a starting point for  an investigation into why such change was inevitable as well as discussions into what remains the same.  Homeless, hunger and abuse are still rife in our society so what is the answer?  Is there an answer?

At the very least, the story shines a light on what happened in so many homes and families around the globe after the guns fell silent.  Sometimes, having your loved one home wasn’t the be-all and end-all – the war came home with them, shaping lives in a way that has impact today.  As Nerys tells Natty,  “The war took him away, Natty. And it gave him back, only not every part of him. And it took away some of the good parts and gave him bad ones instead.”

Lesley Parr has written three books now, and each one has been the most absorbing read – stories of kids of another time and place but whose lives seem so familiar, making them an opportunity to reflect and respect and understand the power of well-crafted, well-rounded characters, a story that seamlessly embraces critical social issues as it flows along, and the joy and satisfaction of being just a little wiser for the experience.  Definitely an author to introduce to those who like meaty, engaging stories. 















David Walliams

Adam Stower

HarperCollins, 2023

320pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99


Bedlam is one of the most dangerous places on Earth – home to a host of wicked villains, it has a huge crime problem. Nothing and nobody is safe from these evil criminals. The Chief of Police is stressed because she can’t  get ahead of it, and the entire city is now suffering. There is rubbish everywhere, smog in the air and pollution in the rivers.  Usually  the city Police Dog Training school trains excellent crime-fighting dogs to help her and the police force to keep the crims in check but even this isn’t working any more. She needs MORE. What could possibly help the city of Bedlam? And then she gets an idea!

At home, she asks her clever wife who is a Professor to build her the perfect dog. A dog than can do all the things the Police Dogs can, but even better! At first the Professor isn’t sure about building such a thing – a Robot Dog and their cat Velma is horrified at the idea. until now, she has had the Chief and Professor to herself and that’s how she likes it. Why on earth would they introduce a dog of all things to her happy household? She goes completely mad when the Professor presents Robodog!

The bedlam in Bedlam really steps up. There is a billion dollar robbery to be foiled, where only a rat who swears he’s a mouse can save the day. Velma is determined to wipe not only Robodog off the planet but every other dog in Bedlam, and suddenly every villain has escaped from Bedlam Prison. What is a Robodog to do?

Thoroughly modern, action-packed and easy to read with all sorts of illustrations that enhance and explain the text throughout, this is one for all Walliams fans, those who enjoy fast-moving slapstick humour and those who may be reluctant to tackle such a thick book, thinking they don’t have the skills to master it.  David Walliams is such a prolific author that this could become an opportunity to create a display of his works with your older, not-so-able readers taking the lead in providing a review or synopsis of each one to entice others to read them.  Not only does it give them a purpose for reading, but provides an opportunity to read at their level without stigma.  



When I’m Big

When I'm Big

When I’m Big











When I’m Big

Karen Blair

Puffin, 2023

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


Everyone keeps telling me
I’m going to be a big girl soon,

but I wonder . . . Just how BIG will I be?

Often parents tell their children of the impending arrival of a new sibling, that they will be a “big brother” or “big sister” and this charming story explores what happens when the little girl takes this literally, as children so often do.  To her, “big” only means “large” and she has grave concerns that she might become so big she won’t fit in the bath or her bed, and instead of her toy giraffe she will only be able to play with the real ones at the zoo!

For younger readers, particularly those who are likely to be experiencing not only the introduction of a new baby to their lives, but all the anxieties about the impact that accompany that, this book is a conversation starter about the changes they can expect and how they will be an important and integral part of them. Little ones worry that the new arrival will usurp them in their parents’ affections and they need reassurance as well as examples of how they will be a vital part of the new situation.

But it can also be a starter for helping them understand how they have grown and changed already, reflecting on what they have learned and achieved so they start to realise that “big” can mean a lot of things.  A. A. Milne’s classic poem, The End is the perfect accompaniment as is this poem from Sounds of Numbers by Bill Martin Jr. (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston; First Edition (January 1, 1966) which could lead to all sorts of writing and maths activities.

My name is Tommy

I am not very big

I am not as big as a goat

A goat is bigger than I am

I am not as big as a horse

A horse is bigger than I am.

I am not as big as a n elephant

An elephant is bigger than I am

I am not as big as a whale

A whale is bigger than I am.

I am not as big as a dinosaur

A dinosaur is the biggest thing I know. 

Sometimes you pick up a book that has the power to take you well beyond its pages – and this is one of those.

Speak Up!

Speak Up!

Speak Up!











Speak Up!

Rebecca Burgess

HarperCollins, 2022

272pp., graphic novel, RRP $A39.99


Twelve-year-old Mia is just trying to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her true autistic self.  Mia would be happy to just be herself, stims and all, but the other students have trouble understanding her and even bully her, while her mother is full of strategies to help her attempt to mask her autism.  Although she wishes she could stand up to her bullies, she’s always been able to express her feelings through singing and songwriting, even more so with her best friend, Charlie, who is nonbinary, putting together the best beats for her.

Together, they’ve taken the internet by storm; little do Mia’s classmates know that she’s the viral singer Elle-Q! Ironically, one of her biggest fans is also one of her biggest real-life bullies, Laura. But while the chance to perform live for a local talent show has Charlie excited, Mia isn’t so sure.

She’ll have to decide whether she’ll let her worries about what other people think get in the way of not only her friendship with Charlie, but also showing everyone, including the bullies, who she is and what she has to say. Though she may struggle with some of her emotions, Mia does not suffer because of her autism. Rather than  a cure as though there is something about her that needs to be fixed,  she just wants acceptance, understanding and tolerance, just like the other characters who have other issues that drive their behaviour. 

For older, independent readers this is a graphic novel by an autistic author/illustrator offering a sympathetic depiction of one young person’s experience of autism, and because it is by one on the spectrum it is an authentic voice giving an insight into what it is like to be different at a time when peer acceptance is so important to who we are. 

One Day

One Day

One Day











One Day

Joanna Ho

Faith Pray

HarperCollins, 2023

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


One day,

your hair will tumble across your head

as you embark on adventures

Life will pull tears that

Roll like rivers over your cheeks

Let them roll, sweet boy

Softness is a sign of strength

In this new release from the author of Eyes the Kiss in the Corners and Eyes that Speak to the Stars , a mother shares her hopes and dreams for her young child and her faith that he is destined for extraordinary things as he grows. Described by Kirkus as an affirming and enchanting love letter from parent to child” it focuses on qualities the child will demonstrate such as curiosity, courage and kindness rather than the materialistic things of a big house, good job and flash car that many might think are a parent’s wishes, perhaps sparking a philosophical discussion about the most important things in life – and even how the perception of these changes as we mature. All a parent wants is a “healthy baby” while all a grandparent wants is “good health.”  

One to share with new or soon-to-be parents.