Just when Penny thought things in Year 5 were actually going okay. With the help of her friends Maria, Kristian, Petra and Rocco, and Cosmo her dog, she figures she can cope with pretty much anything. And there’s always her doodling and her chats with Mrs Hines, the Feelings Teacher if she gets a little anxious again. But little does Penny know that life in 5th grade and at home is going to change in a BIG way.
She came home from school one day in January and was told they were moving house! Her mum was expecting twins, and they needed more room, so they had to move. But Penny didn’t want to move away from her old house. What if the old house was mad they had moved? What if the new owners were messy or painted the walls hideous colours? What if one of the chandelier crystals in her new room fell on her head in the middle of the night? What if she couldn’t organise all her stuff for the movers in time?
Then the 5th grade replacement teacher Miss Kettle told the class everyone had to be involved in the school play that her friend Petra had written. She wasn’t too worried as she was cast as the bat and all she had to do was flutter. That is until halfway through rehearsals, she found out the bat was also the narrator. She would have to speak on stage!
And then there was the problem with her new neighbourhood friend Chloe who hated her friend Maria. How was she ever going to solve that? Problems were everywhere and EVERYTHING was changing! What was she going to do?
In this warm, insightful, and at times laugh out loud second book in the Penny Draws series, award winning author Sara Shepard takes us along on Penny’s journey through the changes that rekindle her anxiety. We are told in a simple and truthful way how this affects Penny and her ability to cope. The strategy proposed by her Feelings Teacher, Mrs Hines, doesn’t seem to work at first, and it is only as the story unfolds that Penny realises how brave she has become and that everything will be okay. The concern and empathy shown for Penny by her friends and family is the wonderful and uplifting thread woven into the story that tugs at the heartstrings of the reader and helps create a deeper understanding of the effects of anxiety.
Teaching themes could include anxiety, families, friendship, acting, writing, diaries, dogs, coping strategies and change.
Find out more about Sara Shepard and Penny
Published by Text Publishing
Release date: 5 September 2023
ISBN: 9781922790408 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 8+
How much does the Earth weigh? How are rainbows made? Where do dreams come from? Why do I have a tail bone and not a tail? Will mum ever stop crying? How do I put us back together? The right way, like we were with you?
These are questions Carina Sugden needs answered but the only person who can answer them isn’t there anymore. Carina’s dad passed away and the family can’t seem to find their way through the sadness and loss. Her mum decided when the doctors had said there was nothing more they could for dad, that they all needed a ‘tree change,’ and so the small town of Forrest was chosen. Even though the house they found was a ‘fixer-upper’, dad had wanted an adventure in a place surrounded by trees and had wanted them all to fix the house together.
But the town and their new home in the Otway Ranges seemed to bring more hurt, more problems and even more sadness because dad hadn’t come with them. Mum threw herself into fixing up the house on her own, crying behind closed doors and shutting people out, Jack became more distant and mean and didn’t want anything to do with his little sister anymore, Gramps tried his best to keep the peace but was fighting a losing battle, and Carina spent hours searching the forest near their new home for the one thing dad had been certain was there and that she had promised her dad she would find for him – a moon tree. Her dad had told her about the seeds taken into space on the 1971 Apollo mission and the trees planted with them on their return to Earth. They were special, just like her dad, and she wasn’t going to let him down. But finding one was proving much harder than she thought.
Finding a path through grief is never easy, but the journey can eventually give rise to new friends, new beginnings, and the opportunity to heal - which is exactly what Forrest gives the Sugden family.
This is a truly beautiful story that captures the very essence and heartbreak of profound loss. Shivaun Plozza doesn’t shy away from the reality of the friction and conflict that can occur at times like this and approaches it with enormous gentleness and poignancy so that the reader doesn’t feel confronted but is rather placed in the heart of this family and gently brought along on their journey through grief to acceptance.
‘I don’t think memories are bad. I think they’re like seeds – you plant them, nurture them and they grow up big and strong and that way the people you love never really die.’
I totally agree with Carina’s character. What a wonderful way to keep alive the memories of those we have lost. Let’s all plant our own memory seeds from now on.
Teaching themes could include grief, families, acceptance, loss, trees, science, magic, dendrology, scientific processes, intergenerational relationships and friendship.
Find out more about Shivaun Plozza
Published by University of Queensland Press
Release date: 4 July, 2023
Highly recommended for ages 9+
Jack doesn’t like trying new things or too loud noises. What he really likes is anything that zooms, digs, or races, and of course, his favourite food, peanut butter sandwiches. His best friend likes peanut butter sandwiches too and they eat them together every lunchtime. She even lets Jack ride on the back of her wheelchair sometimes. Jack’s mother works at the zoo and took Jack, his sisters, and his best friend to visit all the animals at feeding time. The noise of the animals munching on their favourite foods was hard to ignore but, at each enclosure, Jack bravely squeezed his eyes shut and tried the yummy fruits and vegetables for himself. When they came to the lions, Jack began flapping his hands up and down really quickly which is something he does when he’s really excited. The other zookeepers were a bit worried that the lions were getting ready to pounce but, after all the new things he’d tried that day, Jack was fearless. He picked up the lions' food and threw it towards them and as far away from everyone as he could. The next day he stood up in front of the whole class and told everyone about their exciting day, and his best friend and sisters were right there with him.
This is an engaging and inspiring story about two best friends who like each other just the way they are. It celebrates their differences, applauds their similarities, and highlights how we each have something special and unique to offer as a friend. Told with empathy and understanding, JACK’S BEST DAY EVER will hopefully spark conversations about the misconceptions and stereotyping of those who are neurodivergent and encourage more open mindedness and acceptance of who we are as individuals. The warm and colourful illustrations expertly showcase the emotion of the characters and the powerful message at the heart of this story – that not everyone is the same, and that is a wonderful thing.
Find out more about Gabrielle Bassett
Find out more about Annabelle Hale
Published by Woodslane Press
Release date: 01 May 2023
For ages 4 +
Thanks to Romi Sharp and Books on Tour PR & Marketing for the review copy of the book and promotional images
Romeo Alexander Anton Silverio Fortez is a pygmy sloth. But not just any pygmy sloth. The night of his naming ceremony on the tiny island of Escudo where he was born, a fire rainbow erupted across the sky, lightning flashed, there was a shower of shooting stars and the rising moon looked magical. Everyone knew they had just witnessed something incredible. As he grew, Romeo understood he was different to all the other sloths. He wasn’t slow like them. He was fast. Very fast. And he craved adventure and danger. He also developed hypnotic cuteness powers where all he had to do was look into someone’s eyes and they would forget what they had been doing and why they had been cross. He had become a Super Sloth!
The time came when Romeo knew he had to leave the island. He needed to be somewhere bigger, faster and with lots more happening than Escudo. New York City! It would be a bit scary and dangerous at first, but Romeo was up for it! This would be his destiny.
As soon as he arrived in New York, things began to happen. While he was admiring the famous Brooklyn Bridge, its pylons began to tilt, and the bridge began to sway. Everyone else ran the other way but Romeo ran towards the huge half shark, half wolf terrorising commuters. It held a young girl captive in one its enormous, clawed paws. A cheetah had also run towards the commotion. Together they freed the girl and the creature dived into the river below. Suddenly a pig appeared on a Vespa and yelled ‘Hop on!’ The pig, with the girl and Romeo in tow, sped away, with the Cheetah close behind. They quickly came to a cemetery and when the pig pressed a button on the Vespa, a huge panel of grass opened up beneath them revealing a ramp that led to the most amazing underground hideout.
The adventures of Romeo the Super Sloth, Tulip the Cheetah, Ham the Pig and Beth the young Crime Fighter had begun! Now all they had to do was find out where the mutant creature had come from, who had made it and how to stop them from creating more fearsome monsters. Look out evil Professor Weird Warp, your days are numbered!
This is a rollicking, fast paced adventure story filled with incredible inventions, dangerous decisions, brave friends, superheroes, and very evil villains! Readers will be captivated from the opening page, with each chapter providing a thrilling ending to keep us wanting to find out more. Cheri Hughes’ superb black and white illustrations provide just the right amount of detail, leaving the reader with plenty of opportunities to use their own imaginations in the story. An exciting new novel for ages 8 - 12.
Teaching themes could include sloths, cheetahs, pigs, lemurs, superheroes, technology, inventions, villains, friendship, character traits, New York City and Brooklyn Bridge.
Find out more about Aleesah Darlison
Find out more about Cheri Hughes
Published by Big Sky Publishing
Release date: 10 April, 2023
Highly recommended ages 8 - 12.
The Old Kingdom is a place of great magic, and one that eighteen-year-old orphan Terciel, the Abhorsen-in-waiting, has to understand and navigate if he is to take over from his great-great- aunt Tizaneal. Tizaneal is the current Abhorsen and a master of the Charter – ancient magic cultivated and practised to ensure the Dead do not return to life. Terciel must learn the art of the Charter and the secrets behind the seven bells that have somehow chosen him if he is to become the next Abhorsen. On the other side of The Wall that separates the Old Kingdom and the non-magical land of Ancelstierre lives a young woman, Elinor, who knows nothing about the mark on her forehead, or about magic and enchantment. She has been raised by Mrs Watkins, her governess, and Ham, an old theatre and circus performer, at Coldhallow House. Elinor’s mother has always been distant, even more so now she has taken to her bed. She doesn’t speak but sometimes hums softly. As she hums, a thin layer of ice seems to form over her skin. When Elinor informs the doctor and Mrs Watkins of this peculiarity, they exchange worried glances and the doctor simply says, ‘The North.’ Elinor has no idea what has just passed between the two, but when Terciel suddenly appears at Coldhallow and begins questioning both Mrs Watkins and Ham, Elinor realises there is much she has not been told about her past. Little does she realise that from now on, hers and Terciel’s lives are inextricably entwined, and she will play a pivotal role in the Abhorsen’s fight against Kerrigor, the most powerful of the Dead.
This is the prequel to Sabriel, the first in the Old Kingdom series. Terciel and Elinor are Sabriel’s parents, but we are not made aware of how this came to be until this, the sixth book. Here we follow the story of how Terciel and Elinor met, their journeys into the Old Kingdom, how they became masters of their magical crafts, and how they fell in love. Garth Nix never fails to engage readers with superbly crafted characters and storylines. He is a master at weaving together complex and intricate backstories along with important secondary characters to create an enthralling, fast paced fantasy adventure that will have you hooked from the very first page.
Find out more about Garth Nix
Find out more about The Old Kingdom series
Published by Allen & Unwin
Release date: 30 May, 2023
ISBN: 9781761069970 (PB)
Highly recommended ages 14 +
Teaching themes could include fantasy, magic, kingdoms, relationships, playwrights, theatre, circus performers.
Matty’s dad is in prison and he and his mum don’t have enough money to pay the rent anymore. Plus the school bully, Noonan, has it in for him. But he still has Asha, his best friend in the whole wide world. One afternoon when he gets home from school, Matty finds mum has packed his things in the car and tells him they’re leaving tomorrow. They can’t pay the rent anymore and money – or the lack of it – is a big problem. Matty is devastated. She tells him they’re going to Crawley Creek to stay in the old house that his grandpa built but never got to live in. But what about Asha? They were planning on spending the summer together, before he went to the local high school where there were a thousand Noonans, and she went to the selective high school her adoptive parents were pushing her to go to. She was his only friend - apart from the magpie that warbles hello every day. When would he see her again? ‘Just for the summer,’ his mother assures him. ‘Just until we can get back on our feet a bit. Can you do this for me? For us Matty?’
This is a story about survival, renewal and forgiveness. The author writes with such depth, insight and understanding of the landscape, the sea, and the specialness of the world and those around us. He encourages us to look deep inside and find the strength to take care and pride in ourselves, our communities, and our country. His descriptions of the landscape and the creatures and spirits that dwell there, are hauntingly beautiful, and draw the reader further into country and the lives of those in the small township by the sea that is the backdrop for the story. Matty’s interactions with Old Bill, the town outcast, and his father who turns up unexpectedly, become increasingly complex as the tale unwinds. Yet they are also simple, and full of an inner yearning to belong, be seen as, and find, your true self. A nuanced, heartfelt and absorbing story of the interconnectedness of the people and places that enrich our lives.
Find out more about Bradley Christmas
Published by Walker Books Australia
Release date: 08 March, 2023
ISBN: 9781760656393 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 10 +
Teaching themes could include: father-son relationships, families, coming of age, resilience, communities, friendship, change, compassion, sustainability, looking after country and indigenous culture.
Classroom notes by Walker Books found here
Ruby was excited when she was given a shiny new pair of red roller skates for her birthday. She slept with them that first night and the next morning was ready to roll. Roller skating was easy peasy – or so she thought. When she tried inside the house she crashed into Dad’s tower of cards. Dad offered to teach her how but Ruby giggled and said, ‘No. It’s easy peasy.’ Dad suggested she try outside. Wobble, wibble . . . bump! Wooble, wibble . . . thump! Wobble, wibble . . . crunch! No matter how hard she tried, roller skating wasn’t as easy peasy as she thought. When Dad tucked her into bed that night she told him, ‘Roller skating is too hard!’.’ But Ruby didn’t want to give up so, the next day she asked Dad to teach her and he offered to take her somewhere special. There were flashing lights, music and lots of other kids whizzing around. They made roller skating look easy peasy. Dad took Ruby’s hand and they skated slowly around the rink until Ruby took a deep breath and let go of Dad’s hand. She was skating all on her own without a wobble, wibble or crunch in sight!
This delightful story from Ky Garvey is a fun and entertaining journey that follows a young girls' experiences as she tries something new. From excitement to disappointment, then determination and persistence, to the final euphoria of mastering something that wasn’t as easy peasy as she thought. Accomplished with the help of a thoughtful and patient Dad, this is an endearing tale about the relationship between father and daughter and a reminder that to never give up on something new. Amy Calautti’s bright and colourful illustrations are the perfect compliment to the text. The huge disco ball on the front cover reminds me of the one that adorned the skating rink I used to frequent as a tween! The final page illustration is a wonderful, exuberant celebration of Ruby’s triumph. Keep an eye out for the duck in the story who is an important companion on Ruby’s path to success.
Find out more about Ky Garvey
Find out more about Amy Calautti
Published by EK Books an imprint of Exisle Publishing Pty Ltd.
Release date: 01 February, 2023
ISBN: 9781922538441 (HB)
Recommended for ages 4 - 8
Teaching themes could include: roller skating, families, father daughter relationships, determination, persistance, trying new things, roller skates.
Thanks to Book On Tour Aus and Romi Sharp for the review copy.
Gone. It was a word that made sense and made no sense at all. How was he supposed to concentrate at school and make sense of anything when his grandma had just . . . well, gone. Not only had grandma been Elliot's connection to his love of music, but she was his best friend too. Now the last thing he wanted to do was play his violin. Music just didn't feel the same without her there.
One afternoon his mum knocked on the bedroom door and handed him an old cassette tape in an envelope that grandma had left just for him. As it played, the loop of four simple notes seemed to be asking him questions and demanding answers that he wasn't ready to give. Finally he let his grief explode and when he was done, he fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. But just before midnight, he was awoken by a snuffling sound and when he opened his eyes, it wasn't what he thought it might be. Sitting beside his bed, eating the dinner his mum had left for him was - a dragon!
'I'm your guide for the journey . . .' said Kimorin the dragon.
'. . . I'm not going anywhere,' protested Elliot.
'Are you sure? So you ain't got a ticket?'
Elliot remembered the ticket he had found under his pillow sixteen days after grandma had died. The only thing on it that he had recognised was his name - and now the dragon's. Elliot's journey on The Night Train was about to begin.
From the very first chapter we feel the enormity of Elliot's loss, and sense the love and connection he shared with his grandmother through music. But whilst acknowledging that grief and sadness, Ben Brooks also encourages the reader to embrace the magic of the journey, the importance of friendship and family, and the power of music to heal and inspire hope. A warmhearted and uplifting story for ages 7 +. Highly recommended.
Teaching themes could include grief, loss, dragons, trains, family, friendship, magic, magical creatures, boys, emotions, music, composing, musical compositions.
Find out more about Ben Brooks
Published by Hachette Australia
Release date 23 June, 2023
Highly recommended for ages 7 +
Baby wants to grow up as cute as a kitten like his Aunt Daisy said, and as strong as lion just like his Uncle Dan. But as much as he loves his family, there are some attributes from the others he’d rather not inherit – like Uncle Max’s bushy eyebrows, Uncle Ted’s hairy legs and Aunty Fern’s wild hair! Will he grow up just right, just as he should be?
In this hilarious new picture book from author Frances Mackay, we watch as Baby’s relatives welcome him to the family, commenting on how they hope he will inherit a little something from each of them as he grows up to be his own person. Everyone has a personal attribute they hope to see reflected in him, but Baby is not so sure and reacts in a way that baby’s tend to when things get overwhelming – with a huge wail! Both young and older readers will relate to comparisons being made within families and the very funny situations this can lead to. This is a brilliantly simple but engaging story with lots of laugh out loud moments. Dotti Colvin’s wonderful, cartoon like illustrations with outlined, colourful characters who possess those all-important accentuated attributes, are the perfect complement to the text. A great addition to any school or home library.
Teaching themes could include families, physical characteristics, babies, humour in stories, relatives, growing up, emotions & feelings.
Find out more about Frances Mackay
Find out more about Dotti Colvin
Published by Frances Mackay.
Release date 2 November, 2022.
Recommended for ages 3 to 8.
Shona is a princess who lives in the Castle-by-the-Woods with her parents Mum-Queen and Dad-King. She also loves to invent and fix things. Dad-King had even built her a small bench in the shed that was supposed to read 'The Fix-It Princess', but actually read 'The Fox-It Princess', because they'd run out of ink. Lately things hadn't been going so well for the fix-it princess. Shona's parents had taken off a few days ago in the Wing-Thing she had made for their joint birthday presents, and hadn't been seen since. Plus there was no money in the royal chest and no servants to make the yummy food that had always been specially prepared for the Castle Feasts that were held each year. Shona did have chickens for eggs and Wildfire, her father's horse, and an abundance of turnips, but not much else. She managed to keep herself fed and upbeat about her parents homecoming (although she thought it was highly irresponsible of them to be away this long), and chatted to the picture of her Nana that she'd drawn to keep her company. On the third day of her parents being missing, Shona had an idea. She was the fix-it princess after all, and she knew she could solve this problem. She would take Wildfire and embark on a Royal Quest! But before that could happen she needed to get the drawbridge to work, fix the chicken pen that was falling apart after the fox had gotten in, and draw some posters with pictures of her mum and dad on them to hand out in the Village. That was a LOT of fixing, but once it was all done, she still had one more problem to solve. Who was that singing in the woods? She knew for sure it wasn't Mum-Queen so she went to investigate, and found herself face to face with an enormous dragon with the most beautiful voice, and one very large and very sore tooth! Think it through carefully, sweetheart. Slow down, darling, and take things steadily. Things will turn out better if you don't rush them, she could hear her parents saying. Could the dragon be the solution to helping Princess Shona find her parents?
This is a delightful tale by well known Australian author Janeen Brian, of a princess with a can-do attitude, a dragon who needs help learning to fly again, a horse whose name is definitely not a reflection of his character, and two missing parents who are stuck on an island with no way of getting home - unless their fix-it daughter can solve the problem. Readers will love the humour and mishaps in this fairytale like story, and the wild and wonderful ways Shona goes about solving her problems. Told with warmth, compassion, and a message of persistence and caring for all, both animal and human, this story will captivate readers from the very first page. Supported by wonderfully detailed and comical illustrations from Cherie Dignam, this is a highly entertaining story for ages 7+.
Teaching themes could include princesses, queens, kings, inventions, persistence, problem solving, flying, castles, fairytales, families.
Find out more about Janeen Brian
Find out more about Cherie Dignam
Published by Walker Books
Release date 8 March, 2023
Highly recommended for ages 7+
Thanks to Books On Tour Aus and Romi Sharp for the review copy