When a little girl asks ‘Are you there? It’s so lonely in the dark!’, her older sister tells her to imagine they are feathers on a wing, and takes her on a journey of imagination to help her realise that she is never alone. Whether they are links in a daisy chain, stitches in a scarf, branches in an ancient tree, or stones in a bridge standing strong together, the older sister reminds the younger that they will always be connected, and always be part of a bigger whole in some way.
This is such a beautiful story and the words have a gentle, soothing quality to them that immediately draws the reader in. The lilting, rhythmic style is reminiscent of a hushaby song which is supported by the music, written in a minor key, that Maria Speyer has included in the endpapers. The stunning illustrations, also by the author, add to the dreamlike quality of the story, and the palette of soft blues, coral pinks and mustard yellows accentuate its ethereal nature. The hint of gold in the feathers and title text makes for a striking and dazzling cover.
Supporting teaching themes could include sisters, families, relationships, dreams, rhyming stories, music.
Find out more about Maria Speyer.
Published by University of Queensland Press (UQP)
ISBN: 9780702263255 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 4 - 7
Avery's Hat-Tastic Adventures Bk 1: how Does A Hat Save The Day? by Ellie royce. Ill. by Mardi Davies.
Seven year old Avery loves hats. She has forty-nine of them in her room! There is her chef’s hat that helps her make the best cheese toast, her thinking hat that her Dad made that helps her concentrate, her hat with earflaps, her floppy purple hat with corks, and of course, her very special stripey sunshine yellow and bright pink gardening hat, with a green band a big, beautiful sunflower on the brim that helps her grow things. The latter was definitely the hat Avery needed to wear today. She was going to The Patch with her best friend Olivia and Olivia’s dog Gatsby, to help Granny Irene and the other community gardeners pick the vegies for their annual feast. One of Avery’s favourite things in the garden was Sam the Scarecrow, or Sam the un-Scarecrow as they called him. Sam’s face always looked hopeful which is why Avery liked him so much. But today, Mr Laverty was going to take Sam away and make him look scarier. The birds were not frightened of Sam at all and they were eating all the new seeds. Avery pleaded with Mr Laverty not to change him, but her pleas fell on deaf ears. In the middle of their very own sit-down peaceful protest to save Sam, Avery came up with a simple but brilliant idea. A new hat would do the trick! She raced home and brought back all the ones she thought would be suitable but, in the end, decided her own special gardening hat was the obvious choice. But rather than use Avery’s beautiful hat, Mr Laverty remembered he had an old, floppy straw hat they could use instead. It shaded Sam’s face a little so the birds couldn’t see his kind expression. It was perfect!
The first in a three-part junior fiction series by author, podcaster and storyteller Ellie Royce, HOW DOES A HAT SAVE THE DAY is a superb addition to the early reader genre. Children who are looking for their first chapter books will easily relate to the characters, friendships and setting of this delightful tale. The sometimes complex ideas of community, inter-generational relationships, multiculturalism and activism have been expertly woven into the story using insightful, unambiguous and engaging language. Mardi Davies’ playful, black and white, cartoon-like illustrations are a wonderful compliment to the writing. Move over Billie B. Brown, here comes Avery and her hats!
Supporting teaching themes could include community gardens, community, gardening, inter-generational relationships, friendship, activism and millinery.
Find out more about Ellie Royce.
Find out more about Mardi Davies
Published by We Are All Made of Stories
ISBN: 9780646857121 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 5 – 8.
Chris McKimmie has a knack of being able to capture the essence of a story with language and images that are simple yet also have an underlying complexity that goes beyond what is on the page. His latest picture book is no exception. In The New Dog we meet Kiddo. Kiddo is very happy with the two snuggly futon beds, the water and food bowls, the king size bed he shares with his humans and the box full of stuff that Teddy has left behind. From this very first page Chris McKimmie reveals another layer to the story and gives us a subtle insight into the reason Kiddo has become part of this family. Kiddo loves to chew, dig, play, bark and eat anything left lying around or within reach on the kitchen bench! He’s also afraid of storms, hates baths and loves lying in the warm patches of sunshine in his yard. All the things you would expect from a loveable canine. Chris’s illustrations are a joy with bright colours and a slightly imperfect perspective that children love and see reflected in their own artwork. There is also a little help from his family for some of the drawings which adds to the feeling of warmth and inclusion in the images. There are clever plays on text direction and font changes which add to the fun and involvement for the reader. This warm and engaging story is a must have for anyone who has ever lost a canine friend and then experienced the delight of welcoming a new, playful, mischievous and instantly loveable family companion.
Chris McKimmie is an award-winning writer, illustrator and artist whose book I NEED A Parrot, won the CBCA Picture Book of the Year Award in 2020. His stories are always quirky, eye catching and totally relatable for younger readers. The New Dog, aimed at readers aged 4 +, could almost be seen as a sequel to Me, Teddy, the story of the family’s beloved black Labrador, and would make a wonderful addition to any collection of animal stories.
This review can also be found online in BuzzWordsMagazine
Supporting teaching themes could include animals, dogs, loss of a pet, families, grief and stylized artwork.
Find out more about Chris McKimmie
Published by Ford Street Publishing
ISBN 9781922696038 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 4 +
Sophie has to spend a lot of time in hospital. When her little sister visits, Sophie tells her lots of wonderful stories. There is one story that is her little sister’s favourite. It is about a very special place where they bounce off fluffy white clouds, get tickled by a long-armed feather duster, eat lots of fairy bread and even meet the Queen of Rainbows! They have star ball challenges and sip tea from golden cups made out of the sun. Sophie tells her little sister this is their special place, and that no matter what happens, she will always find her there.
IMAGINE OUR SPECIAL PLACE takes us on a journey of loss through the eyes of two young sisters but, rather than focus on the sadness, Kelly Louise Jarris concentrates on the warm and close relationship between the two, creating a story that is both comforting and uplifting. The text enables younger readers to connect with grief in a simple, age appropriate way and is beautifully supported by Sandunika Dissanayake’s rich, enchanting and colourful illustrations. IMAGINE OUR SPECIAL PLACE is a wonderful contribution to books about loss for children aged 3 to 5. Author interview to follow soon.
View the book trailer https://www.youtube.com/embed/c_ORbQCHdvA
Find out more about Kelly Louise Jarris
Published by InHousePublishing
ISBN 9781922717948 (PB)
Recommended for ages 3 - 5.
Thanks to Romi Sharp and Books On Tour PR & Marketing for access to the digital copy.
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This is the tale of a much-loved and adventurous young cygnet who was given the name Ninni Yabini, little star, because she was born on a night when a small star shone brightly in the night sky. Her mother and father, Djidar and Maali, had made a nest of sticks and river grasses for Yabini to keep her safe and warm. They played with her and cuddled her every day. One day, when heavy rain fell, Yabini’s nest was swept away. This made everyone sad, especially Yabini’s mother Djidar, as it was her task to build the nest. But with the help of Yabini’s father Maali, they soon had another, stronger nest built. While Maali and Djidar were putting the finishing touches to the nest, Ninni Yabini saw a willy-wagtail and decided to chase him. She soon became lost and scared, and then night began to fall. That was when Yabini saw a little star shining brightly in the sky and followed it all the way home. Safe and warm in her nest, Yabini feel asleep as her parents sang a lullaby about that same little star. Whenever she was feeling lost and alone, Yabini had her very own star to guide her home.
This dual language picture book for readers aged 2 – 5 years old, is based on a tale from the Wadjuk Noongar people of south-west Western Australia and is told in both Noongar and English. It is set near Derbal Yarrigan, the Noongar name for the Swan River. Author Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker is a Wadjuk Noongar traditional owner and was awarded the Member of Order of Australia in 2020 for her significant service to tertiary education, and to the Indigenous community. Professor Kickett-Tucker has brought this traditional story of family, belonging and identity to life with meaningful yet simple text, so that younger readers will be able to read and understand the story in its original Noongar language, as well as its English translation. Tyrown Waigana is a Wardandi Noongar and Saibai Island artist and graphic designer. His illustrations underscore the essence of the story with their vibrant colours and comic-like quality and are a fresh and dynamic complement to the text.
Ninni Yabini is an enchanting new addition to the small, but growing collection of dual language stories that highlight the incredible culture and history of storytelling of our First Nations Peoples.
Supporting teaching themes and ideas could include family, belonging, identity, seasons, indigenous stories and culture, language, indigenous languages, Noongar language, oral storytelling, water birds and black swans.
Teaching notes and activities are available here Ninni Yabini Teacher Notes
Find out more about Professor Cheryl Kickett-Tucker
Find out more about Tyrown Waigana
Find out more about Noongar Culture and Language
Release date 16 August, 2022.
Published by Fremantle Press.
ISBN 9781760991210 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 2 - 5
Matty has everything going for him - a loving family, great friends, great skills on the soccer field and pretty good grades at school - which should add up to a great life right? Well they did, until recently. When soccer season started this year Matty found he couldn't get himself onto the pitch without sweaty palms, a racing heartbeat and a mind that kept telling him he wasn't good enough. And he couldn't figure out why. Things got worse when he began dodging his friends calls and texts, missing birthday parties, not doing homework and avoiding school. He felt guilty, scared, angry and sad with himself, and all he really wanted to do was sleep the world away. But one morning his dad convinced him to go for a walk in the local national park where they came across an abandoned dog. Matty felt an instant connection to this small, frightened creature. After coaxing him into their car, taking him to the vet and eventually being allowed to adopt him and bring him home, 'Cliff' and Matty become inseparable. Cliff has 'good days and bad days', and as the dog begins to heal, Matty realises that he needs help to heal too. He summons up all his courage to eventually tell his dad that he thinks he might be depressed, to which his dad replies 'You've no idea how brave you're being by telling me that.' This is one of my favourite moments of the book. Kate Foster writes with such clarity, compassion and understanding about Matty's struggles. There is a beautiful empathy and strength that shines through in this story, and the relief Matty feels after he finally tells his closest friends about his depression is palpable. As is the surprise when he discovers that someone else his own age, whom he would never have suspected, is suffering from severe anxiety. This is my other favourite moment in the book as it is Matty's realisation that he is not alone.
Animals, especially dogs (sorry but I'm totally biased about this!) are the perfect listeners and companions for when we're not feeling great. They know when we need a snuggle and will goof around with us when we're happy. They are like mirrors into our souls, emotional soothsayers, and seem to have an innate understanding of exactly what we need at any given time. Cliff was Matty's ideal companion.
Kate's own experience with depression has no doubt given her an invaluable, first hand insight into this illness. Her writing is filled with emotion, and the story is meaningful and transparent without being patronising or reductive. This is an important, must have, highly recommended novel for upper primary and middle school.
Matty is not alone as a young man suffering with depression as, according to the Beyond Blue organisation, one in seven young men aged between 16 and 24 experience depression or anxiety each year. If you are suffering from mental health issues you can contact Headspace, Kids Helpine or Reachout.
Themes for teaching could include mental health, depression, anxiety, friendship, courage, self awareness, dogs, pets as therapy, families and father-son relationships.
Find out more about Kate Foster.
Release date May 4, 2022. Published by Walker Books Australia
ISBN: 9781760654719 (PB)
Highly recommended for ages 9 +
School's out for the summer and eleven year old Alberta Bracken (or Birdy for short) is looking forward to sun, surf and hanging with her friends at the beach. But something's not right. Her best friend Sylvie is 'ghosting' her and not returning any calls or texts, her mum and dad are acting weird and her little sister, Clementine, is even more annoying than usual. Then she gets pushed off her bike by Seth Cromby and brakes her arm and has to have it in plaster for six weeks! There go her summer holiday plans. Things get even worse when her mum (bestselling author of Tammy Bracken's Guide To Modern Manners) and dad separate because he has been having a 'thing' with someone in town. Now she knows why everyone has been acting strange. How will she get through the holidays with no friends, a broken arm and a family that is falling apart? Enter Mikki Watanabe. He's from Birdy's school but they don't really know each other - yet. Mikki has just returned from Japan and invites Birdy to hang out at his place. He's is a budding film maker and really loves trees. He tells Birdy about 'forest bathing' and how trees communicate with each other, and the more Mikki tells her, the more curious Birdy becomes. They begin making YouTube nature shorts about a pine grove they discover hidden deep in the local forest, only to be shocked to learn it will be cut down soon! They HAVE to save these beautiful, ancient trees, but how?
This new story from Marion Roberts focuses on friendship, forests, and family. Her main characters introduce us to the science science of tree communication and their interconnectedness, and the importance of trees to our planet and our own wellbeing. She tackles the difficult issues of separation and kleptomania in a language that is easily accessible and relatable for tween readers, and at the heart of the story is the underlying theme of forgiveness. For young activists the story also provides concrete ideas on how to become involved in and promote a cause they are passionate about, without being didactic or out of reach for that age group. A quirky, warm hearted novel that will strike the right chord with its readers.
Themes for the classroom include families, friendship, social media, activism, forest bathing, the environment, risk taking, resilience, bullying and forgiveness.
Find out more about Marion Roberts
Link to lesson activities
Published 2022 by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781760526795 (PB)
Recommended for ages 9 to 13
In this latest book from Sharon Giltrow we find a young girl and her mother getting ready for school. Except this is no ordinary morning routine. In this warm and funny story we see the roles reversed, with the young child urging her mama to get out of bed, get dressed (and help her put the clothes on the right way), eat breakfast, get her shoes on and finally get out the door and be on the way to school. When they arrive at school mama wants one more hug, one more kiss and a pinkie promise that they will see each other later. Parents will relate to the morning rush and the extrication of limbs and goodbyes at the school gate before the children happily run off to find their friends and start the school day. Children will recognise the hilarity of the role reversal and see themselves in the many tasks that mama has to finish before the school morning can begin.
Sharon's humorous and engaging text is complimented by Arielle's bright and playful illustrations that expertly capture the essence of the story. Get Ready, Mama! is a wonderful addition to any library collection for young children.
Themes to be explored in the classroom could include morning routines, families, mother-daughter relationships, getting ready for school, responsibility and self awareness.
Find out more about Sharon Giltrow
Find out more about Arielle Li
Published by EK Books for Kids. Release date April 6, 2022.
ISBN 9781922539083 (HB)
Recommended for ages 3 to 6.
Fierce Girls is a uniquely Australian book celebrating five women who have inspired recent generations, both young and old, to follow their dreams, strive for excellence and continue breaking down barriers. The women included in the book come from different backgrounds and are involved in different fields of endeavour, but the one thing they all have in common is their determination to achieve despite the challenges they faced. From politics to surfing, tennis to stage performance, and writing, each has achieved many highlights in their careers, with more still to come. Samantha Turnbull's text is very accessible and engaging with some really interesting, and perhaps not so well known anecdotes, about the early lives and careers of the five. Kim Siew's artwork is bold and bright, almost like a graphic novel, with speech bubbles and images that represent the essence of each story - the perfect way to represent these bold and bright women. And 'fierce' is such an apt description of these women who believed in themselves and never accepted 'no' as an option! There are other books out there describing female pioneers like the Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls series, but none that are dedicated solely to our gutsy and spirited Australian female ground breakers. Originally an ABC podcast series, I'm hoping Fierce Girls is just the first in a series of similar books about Australian women. This is a must have for all school library Biography sections.
Use this book for Upper Primary and Secondary students when looking at biographies and discussing famous people, famous women, famous Australians. Themes to be explored could include resilience, risk taking, politics, sport, acting, indigenous Australians and literature.
Find out more about Samantha Turnbull
Find out more about Kim Siew
Published 2022 by Five Mile.
ISBN 9781922677051 (HB)
Recommended for ages 8 - 14
'Breathe deeply and take your time. The making of a bird is not a thing to be hurried.' '. . . feel your slowly beating heart fill with a kind of sadness, a kind of happiness. For this is when you will know that you have really made a bird.' These are my favourite lines form this beautifully delicate and evocative story. Yes there is a bird that is made, but it is so much more than just a bird. From the delicate bones gathered by the child, to figuring out how to put them together, and then the thoughtful imagining of what is needed for the bird to truly fly, are ideas expertly brought to life in Meg's soulful, meditative text. There is a sense of wonder at every page turn as we follow the journey of the child and the bird in its making. I love Matt's blueprint that forms part of the front cover illustration as this creates the simple deception that there is a blueprint to follow, when in fact there really isn't. His palette of soft, paler hues and tones throughout the majority of the story adds to the ethereal nature of the text. The exquisite, brighter colours of the feathers are a marvellous contrast and help focus the readers' attention on the possibilities of what the bird might do and become.
How To Make A Bird is a story of self belief, individuality, resilience, belonging and limitless imagination, and is a picture book for all ages - not just younger readers. There are so many layers to both the text and the illustrations that you will discover something new every time you read this stunning 2021 CBCA Picture Book Award winner.
Use this story in both primary and secondary classrooms for poetry studies, storytelling, art studies and for maker space ideas. Themes to be explored could include resilience, belonging, imagination, self-awareness, compassion and inventiveness.
Find out more about Meg McKinlay.
Find out more about Matt Ottley.
Published 2020 by Walker Books Australia.
ISBN 9781925381894 (HB)
Highly recommended for ages 6 - 12
I would also recommend this book for middle and high school students.