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+
From the creators of ALLERGIC comes a new graphic novel centered around Avery Lee, an eleven year old from Hibiscus Gardens. Avery loves living there with her mum, dad and six siblings, but the thing she would love even more is to have a room of her own. She shares a room with her younger sister Pearl, and is not happy when her older brother, Theo, gets to have his own room, because that means she'll have to share with her baby brother Max too! After visiting one of her best friends, Cameron, she learns that they are turning his basement into a room for his grandma who is coming to stay. Avery thinks that would be a great idea for the basement at their house too. Avery's mum and dad don't have enough to renovate, so she comes up with the perfect way for an eleven year old to make money - dog walking! But that doesn't work out too well when the first dog she walks runs away. She then decides on a lemonade stand and, with a little help from Pearl, they make some money, but definitely not enough for a room in the basement. Then she discovers that her other best friend Dani, has become close friends with another girl, her brother is being bullied by Dani's older brother AND her mum has got a new job - in Oregon! Worst summer ever! Until two of her younger siblings run away. The whole family searches for them and, when Avery eventually finds them at a neighbours house, she realises that whatever the problem might be, it will be okay, as long as they are all together.
Changing friendship dynamics, moving house, feeling overwhelmed, bullying and sibling rivalry are all touched on in a way that will resonate with young people in all kinds of family situations, big or small. Finding your own way of dealing with, and learning from what can seem like insurmountable problems, is at the heart of this warm and uplifting story about family, friendship, change and resilience. The language and design of the text is engaging and straightforward, making the story easily accessible for the reader. The detail and differences of the family characters in the illustrations really brings out their individual personalities, and the background colours help focus the reader on the situations unfolding in each panel. Another brilliant graphic novel for tweens from this talented duo.
Teaching themes could include moving house, families, siblings, friendship, bullying, feeling overwhelmed, sharing, graphic novels, cartoons.
Find out more about Megan Wagner Lloyd
Find out more about Michelle Mee Nutter
Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic
Release date 1 April, 2023.
ISBN: 9781338568936 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 8 - 12.
Fix-it Ninget is a Space Ninget who loves to build and fix things. Ninget has made lots of weird and wonderful gadgets on her home planet, but now, with encouragement from her grandfather, Ninget is taking some great big ideas to neighbouring planets. When she lands on the rocky Pink Planet, there seems to be lots to fix. Ninget tries to help Snug plant seeds in the forest, but the machine loses control and shoots the seeds up into the sky. Ninget thought she should help Slush, who lives on top of a very mushy mountain in a very drippy house, but the humungous fan she invented blew wind everywhere and created a blizzard! Ninget then found Shroom and used her Robot Digbee to pull him out of the ground, but Shroom needed the moss and the hole he was in, to survive. Shroom, Slush and Snug knew that Ninget really wanted to help, and decided that what she needed was her very own workshop on Pink Planet so that creatures could come to her to fix things, instead of the other way around. And so they built 'Ninget's Help Shed.'
This is such a timely story about global warming, and wanting to make a positive contribution to saving our planet. Told by someone who will inherit the difficult problems of the past, it is such a joyous and uplifting story about the future. The outlined and cartoon like illustrations are bright and colourful, and just right for engaging younger readers. The rhyming text is jaunty and humorous without being didactic, and there are enough subtle hints to enable a connection with current climate concerns. It seems that the moral of this story is that sometimes the best intentions are not always the right ones but, with perseverance and compassion, we will find a solution.
Supporting teaching themes could include climate change, Earth, forests, mountains, polar melting, robots, space, the environment, vegetables, inventions, creativity, the solar system, planets.
Find out more about Luca French
Find out more about Sarah Dabro
Published by Five Mile Press
Release date February 2023
ISBN: 9781922857699 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 3 +
Summer has finally arrived in Hibiscus Gardens, which means it's wedding time! Willa is super excited about her Aunty Jane's upcoming wedding but not so excited about her dress, which she tells her best old-age friend Frank, makes her look like a meringue. Still, it will be loads of fun and her dog, Woof, has the very special job of being the ring bearer. But summer also means bushfire season, and Willa is worried by the smoke rising from the mountains behind the town. Dad tells her not to worry as they head to the beach with her best same-age friend Tae. The wind seems to be changing though, and by the time they are back home, the smoke is bigger and closer. It starts raining - not water - but fire sparks - and they all spring into action packing backpacks, food for Woof and checking to make sure neighbours are safe. Suddenly there's a loud rumbling and raindrops, not fire sparks, fall from the sky. Everyone gathers in the middle of the road clapping and cheering and thankful they are safe. But not everything in the town was saved. Brookside Barn where the wedding was to take place, and where all the wedding dresses were being kept, has burned down, so the wedding is called off. Willa is worried about the koalas near the showground too. With the help of Tae and Frank, Willa hatches a plan to save the koalas, and orchestrate the biggest surprise wedding Hibiscus Gardens has ever seen!
Jacqueline Harvey tackles some important concepts for younger readers in this fourth installment of Willa and Woof including bushfires, bullying and wildlife rescue, which she approaches in a way that is meaningful but not confronting. The metaphor of the fire as a dragon is a masterful use of language to impress upon the reader the danger of the bushfire situation. The gravity of rescuing and looking after injured wildlife is portrayed with tension and understanding, with the reader given the opportunity to see the other side of a bully. Seriousness is balanced with humour, and descriptions like 'Ginger Biscuit, the serial killer (cat)', '. . . a giant carrot that looked like it had legs' and 'Her caterpillar eyebrows, Bert and Hilda, . . .' will have readers laughing out loud. Another highly entertaining adventure filled with heart, friendship, compassion and fun, from one of Australia's best known authors.
Supporting teaching themes could include bushfires, seasons, friendship, bullies, wildlife rescue, koalas, intergenerational friendships and dogs.
Find out more about Jacqueline Harvey
Published by Puffin Books an imprint of Penguin Random House Australia
Released 4 April, 2023.
Highly recommended for ages 6 - 9.
Megan is not like her other sisters. They are loud and love sport, whereas Megan is quieter and loves to draw. It’s not that she doesn’t love them, or her mum and dad, it’s just that the broom cupboard offers a quieter place to get away and draw her fantastical creatures. So does her friend Li’s place. Ever since Li moved in across the road two years ago, the girls have been inseparable. Li is an only child with a single mum, and things are a lot calmer at their house. Plus, Li is a creative too. She loves to write, especially about aliens, and brings Megan’s creatures to life by giving them their own names and backstories. Then one Friday, everything changes. A blue glow takes over the town and everyone in it, except for Megan, Li and Megan’s dog Callie. People stop and quietly stare in a zombie like state. And when Megan tries to draw, it seems the pencil takes on a life of its own and she can’t control her hand. The same happens when Li writes her stories. On their way to get help, Callie leads them to the Talora Caves where they see an eerie blue glow emanating from the cavern. It tries to capture their minds and pull them in. The girls will have to use all their courage and awaken their fantasy beasts to defeat the creature that is The Glow.
This is a fast-paced, supernatural tale of adventure, friendship and heroism, set against a background of creativity and fantasy. Two ordinary girls are caught in an extraordinary situation and must use all of their creative skills to save their town. The story is extremely well written with short chapters, engaging language and plenty of mystery and excitement to keep the reader wanting more. The illustrations, especially those of the creatures, are very intricate with a hint of danger and menace, and will have huge appeal to those who loved the Deltora Quest series and the dragons, orcs, and other beasts from Middle Earth, Harry Potter and Hayao Miyazaki. As a lover of fantasy, I couldn’t put this one down and highly recommend it for upper primary and middle grade readers.
Supporting teaching themes could include mythical creatures, dragons, fantasy, friendship, apocalypses, monsters, dogs, bravery, creativity, illustrating, writing.
Find out more about Sofie Laguna
Find out more about Marc McBride
Published by Allen & Unwin
Released March 2023
Highly recommended for ages 9 +
Ben has lived with his aunt Samantha ever since he suffered a brain injury six years ago. His injury caused memory problems which means he can't remember anything about his past or his parents, or why his aunt seems to resent him so much. There are no photographs or keepsakes in the house to give him clues about his parents, except for a postcard, sent from Barcelona, that he salvaged from the bin when Samantha wasn’t looking. And lately, he seems to be forgetting things a lot more. He's so worried he could lose his memory forever, that he's taken to drawing his ideas on paper and keeping them hidden.
But today when he woke up, things felt different. The dream he frequently had about a dark cave with no way out had changed. He had seen a shaft of light ahead in the blackness and hurried towards it but, when he was almost there, his bedside alarm went off. As he rushed downstairs to help his aunt get ready for school, the sound of the clocks in the house intensified and then suddenly, stopped. His aunt didn’t seem to notice. Ben hadn't realised it was his twelfth birthday until he had began organising Samantha's notebooks and saw the date on the first page. September 15th. That’s when it started again. All the clocks in the house began ticking and clanging at once, the radio screeched, and the drips from the kitchen taps sounded like hail. The hands on the clocks started winding backwards, a storm began to brew outside, and he felt an intense tingling sensation run through his body as he fell to the floor. Then there was silence. When he opened his eyes, he was not in the kitchen anymore.
And so Jayben’s journey begins into the Elf world. He discovers that he is the Ninth Dreamer, the one prophesised to reignite the torch and bring peace to the land, and help the elves regain their memories instead of having to hang them in jars on trees so they don’t forget. With the help of his new-found friends Phee, Peggro, Maggie, Raynor and Yespa, they must get to the last rock, find Jayben’s memory chord, avoid getting caught by the agents, defeat the evil Snaggis, and destroy Null – the false Ninth Dreamer. But things are not as easy as they seem, and treachery hides in places where they least expect.
This is a fast paced, exciting, thrill a minute adventure into a new fantasy realm created by Thomas Leeds. A whole world of creatures and magic opens up from the very beginning. Evil witches, fantastic beasts, strange lands and powerful magic entice the reader deeper into the story with every page turn. A powerful new series from an author who has experienced the trauma of brain injury and memory loss himself, this has the potential to become the next sought-after fantasy classic for upper primary/middle grade readers. The cover art is both gorgeous and intriguing, and captures the essence of the story beautifully. There is so much more of this adventure waiting to be told!
Supporting teaching themes could include friendship, courage, fantasy, magic, magical realms, memory loss, neurological disorders, witches, families.
Find out more about Thomas Leeds
Cover Illustration Teo Skaffa
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (an imprint of Hachette UK)
Release date 2 February 2023.
ISBN: 9781444968637 (HB)
Highly recommended ages 9 - 13
Ibis (affectionately known as Bin Chicken) has had enough of the noise and crowds of the city at Christmas. ‘Bah humbug! Not this again!’ she grumbles. ‘I can’t find my dinner with that racket below – shoppers and carols and all that ho-ho!’ Even the pigeon is wearing a Santa hat! She decides to gather her chicks and head to the beach. But what she doesn’t realise is that many other Australians have exactly the same idea, and when they arrive there are lots of children creating a very loud hullabaloo!
Out from the shadows of the scrub steps a bush turkey, who knows exactly where to get some yummy food. They wait till the children have left for the beach with their ‘. . . boogie boards, beach towels and inflatable toys!’, and ever so quietly (watch out for the dog!) make their way inside the house, where they find a treasure trove of delectable Christmas delights. They poke their noses into everything – including some of the carefully wrapped presents – which is when their plan begins to unravel. They start pulling on the Christmas cracker from opposite ends and BOOOM! Oh no! This wakes the dog, sends the turkey into uncontrolled flight, and bird poo and feathers begin flying around as the Christmas tree tumbles. They manage to escape and luckily for Ibis, the bush turkey knows that if they wait just one more day, there will be tons of Boxing Day leftovers!
This is another hilarious addition to Kate and Jol Temple’s Bin Chicken stories. The talented duo brilliantly captures the frenetic pace and noise of the holiday season in a city, and the feeling of wanting to get away from it all and head to the coast. The appearance of the bush turkey adds more humour with his ‘in the know’ information about how to get inside the house and start sampling the Christmas Day feast. It is the perfect slap stick companion for the Ibis and the chaos that ensues. The bit about ‘Bird poo flying around!’ will definitely be a winner with readers. The language is also very relatable with words like ‘servo’, ‘hotdog franks’ and ‘boogie boards’ making it very clear that this is an Aussie Christmas. The illustrations are a joy, with the bright colours and attention to detail a delight. Readers will notice something new each time they turn a page from the Christmas baubles and credit cards on the opening spread, the wonderful snaking lights of the highway, the old-fashioned television, and the last double page spread of a game of beach cricket. Plus there’s a sneaky little mouse who pops up on almost every page as well! My two absolute favourite details are the hats – Bin Chicken’s tuna tin and Bush Turkey’s crash helmet fit each creature’s personality perfectly!
Supporting teaching themes could include Christmas, celebrations, birds, the Ibis, the bush turkey, hats, summer, beach life, friendship and resilience.
Find out more about Kate and Jol Temple
Find out more about Ronojoy Ghosh
Published by Scholastic Australia Pty Ltd.
Highly recommended for ages 3 - 7
An impenetrable fortress and a cosmic hand that is beginning to take on a mind of its own, are just the beginning of Jack’s problems in Book 8 of this graphic novel series. He and June have been staking out the fortress for weeks trying to find a way in so they can stop the evil warlord Thrull, from getting the schematics to The Tower. Thrull captured Ghazt and took him to the fortress so Wracksaw could extract the plans from Ghazt’s brain. Once finished, The Tower will allow Rezzoch the Ancient, Destructor of Worlds, access to their world where he’ll do exactly what his name suggests – destruct their world!
While Jack and June were being attacked by a not-so-tiny Splotcher, Quint, Dirk and Skaelka reappeared and saved the day! With the friends reunited, Skaelka reveals that the fortress fell through from her dimension, and that she was held prisoner there. She also knows there is only one way in because when she escaped, there was only one way out – the Cliff of Infinite Fatalities. As they try and come up with a plan to scale the cliff and infiltrate the fortress, Jack feels the cosmic hand, a new and not so welcome physical addition, start to pulse and tighten, and realises he has to be the one to somehow scale the cliff.
And so begins The Best Buddies Mission Force to break into the Fortress and save the world. Zombies, explosions, swamp monsters, fierce winds, Razorkaws and monster guards abound, but the most surprising discovery is that Skaelka wasn’t just speaking poetically about the heart of the fortress. The Fortress is actually alive! The group manage to scale the cliff and get inside where fights ensue with monster guards and, after almost being outnumbered, Jack’s much-loved monster dog, Rover, reappears with some new friends, The Goon Platoon, who add much needed monster fire power. They win the battle and penetrate the inner sanctum. Here they watch, stunned, as Wracksaw attaches armacles to the ceiling, his body glowing as he begins extracting the information from the brain of a motionless Ghazt. Suddenly Thrull appears, sucks the schematics into his own brain, and leaves triumphant.
Jack feels the cosmic hand pulsing, drawing him towards Ghazt who, with his dying breath, reveals the purpose and power of the cosmic hand. The story finishes with three important cliff hanger questions which will only be answered in the next exciting episode: Will Thrull build The Tower? Will Rezzoch be released? and Will Jack master the power of the cosmic hand?
Max Brallier and Douglas Holgate have delivered yet another epic, fast paced, thrill-a-minute ride in The Last Kids on Earth and the Forbidden Fortress. This will be a winner with fans of the series, and although it’s probably best to have read at least some of the other books, there are enough hints in the first few chapters to enable those who haven’t done so to catch up on previous dangerous, heart-stopping encounters. This story is packed with sci-fi fantasy adventure, humour, and fantastic illustrations, but also delivers on the important themes of friendship, bravery, loss, acceptance and relationships.
The graphic novels have made a very successful crossover from page to screen as a Netflix original TV series.
Supporting teaching themes include friendship, bravery, loss, zombies, monsters, relationships, science fiction, comics, graphic novels and cartoon illustrations.
Watch the trailer for The Last Kids On Earth and the Forbidden Fortress below.
Find out more about The Last Kids On Earth Series
Find out more about Max Brallier
Find out more about Douglas Holgate
Published by HarperCollins and released through HarperCollins Australia & New Zealand
Release date October 5th, 2022.
ISBN: 9780008582340 (BPB)
Highly recommended for ages 8 +
In this new picture book from Shae Millward we meet Ziggy, a rabbit who was once companion to The Amazing Albertino, a most marvellous and magnificent magician. They travelled the world together, delighting and surprising audiences. Albertino would make things disappear and then reappear, and when he tapped his wand three times and spoke the magic words, Ziggy would jump out of Albertino’s hat to the amazement of the crowd. After each performance, Alby (as Ziggy affectionately called him) would gaze up at the moon, and once told him, ‘The moon is a master of illusion Ziggy. It’s a dusty old rock. . . yet we see it as beautiful. It appears to shine but makes no light of its own. It seems to change shape, yet it is always whole.’ Albertino began spending a lot of time in his room, and Ziggy was certain he was working on a really BIG trick. Then one day when Ziggy woke up, Alby was gone. Alby had made all kinds of objects vanish before, but had never made himself disappear. And so Ziggy waits, and waits, and waits for him to reappear. As he waits, he meets Owl, and tells him how worried he is that something has gone wrong with the trick. Owl reassures him that the trick was a success, his greatest ever, and that he is not gone, but all around them. Albertino has simply changed from one form into another, and is now part of the moon, the stars, the rainbows and flowers. But most importantly, he will always be part of Ziggy's heart.
This is such a quietly emotive and beautiful tale of friendship, loss and acceptance. With the moon as a metaphor for being ever changing but at the same time always there, Shae Millward offers a gentle explanation of losing someone in the physical sense, but still having them with us in the memories and everyday reminders all around us. Andy Fackrell’s gorgeous illustrations are perfect support for the story, with his use of bold, bright colours when Ziggy and Alby are together, and subtle nighttime hues as Ziggy waits for his friend to return. Ziggy’s expressions from his sadness and confusion about Alby’s disappearance, to his pure joy at the realisation that he will always be with him, are enchanting and poignant in their simplicity. THE RABBIT’S MAGICIAN is an uplifting tale of love, comfort and remembrance, and would make a wonderful addition to collections and picture books dealing with grief.
Supporting teaching themes could include friendship, loss, grief, love, magic, rabbits, animals, magicians, the moon, phases of the moon.
Find out more about Shae Millward.
Find out more about Andy Fackrell.
Link to author interview with Shae Millward.
Link to lesson activities.
Published by Ford St.
ISBN: 9781922696076 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 3 - 8