Alligator in an Anorak – Daron Parton


ISBN: 9780857983091

Published: 01/10/2014

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 32 pages

RRP: $19.99

alligator-in-an-anorakHere is a fabulous alphabet book from illustrator/author Daron Parton. Children will possibly be unfamiliar with some of the animals – and that’s all part of the fun!

As an Infants (Lower School) teacher, alphabet books played a huge part in our teaching program and this one really hits the mark because as each page’s ‘letter’ rolls by – the text may use two different sounds of that letter, exposing children to the variation in the alphabetic symbols and broadening their experience past the mere phonic knowledge that other ABC books might offer.

Little people just LOVE ABC books in my experience and this one, with it’s extended vocabulary, the singularly striking illustrations placed against white space for super impact will really resonate with littlies from 3 years and up.

Parton’s illustrative style is almost Picasso with animals appearing rather quirky in appearance – which I have no doubt will appeal immensely to children who are fond  of looking at objects in a different light.

This is a deceptively simple book – which will give rise to much rich discussion with Early Childhood or Prep classes. I foresee much artwork being inspired by it.

If you think you already have enough alphabet books in your collection – think again – this is definitely worth having on your shelf!

Teacher notes here.

Tim and Ed – Ursula Dubosarsky & Andrew Joyner


Penguin Australia

Published: 22/10/2014

Format: Hardback, 32 pages

RRP: $24.99



“Same ears, same eyes. Same feet, same head” Meet Tim and Ed – they are the same – but different.

These two adorable identical koala twins are so alike – and yet, like most twins, each have their own personality as well.  They do everything together and most of the time, their Dad seems to cope very well (although it appears he is bringing up this lively pair on his own).

After a particularly strenuous day with his bouncing offspring, Dad calls in reinforcements and Aunty Pim invites Ed for a sleepover. Just Ed?  Tim is just a little put out by this development – expressively illustrated by Andrew Joyner – but is consoled by the attraction of a night with just himself and Dad. So while Ed and Aunty Pim have fun together at her place, Dad and Tim do likewise – in different ways.

Though definitely a little strange to not have his mirror-image playmate with him, Tim soon adjusts to this unfamiliar situation – and is more than reconciled when the morning brings back Aunty Pim and Ed, along with the promise of ‘..Next time Tim can come instead!”

As usual, the deft writing of Ursula Dubosarsky gives young readers a humorous take on a sometimes daunting topic – small children’s growing independence, successfully removing the worries that some of them have when faced by such a situation.

Tim and Ed manage beautifully – I wonder how Dad felt? Perhaps a follow up could look at separation anxiety in parents? ;-)

A very stylish cover, delightful endpapers, a romping fabulous text (especially for read-alouds!) and joyous illustrations.

Highly recommended for young readers from around 5 years up!


My First Elmer Collection – David McKee



Random House

Published: 7 Aug 2014

Four ELMER board books in one handy package!

Elmer’s Colours
Elmer’s Day
Elmer’s Friends
Elmer’s Weather

Shrinkwrapped in an attractive card wrapper to make a gorgeous gift for a young baby and an esssential addition to every playgroup and nursery school’s book shelves.

Fact: Everyone loves elephants.

Fact: Everyone loves Elmer.

Well, that’s how it works in our family and I have to say, that I have not shared Elmer with any Lower School humans who have not had a similar response!

And now, in the 25th anniversary year of Elmer stories, here is the dinkiest, cutest little series/set to gift to miniscule people in your circle.  As we know, reading starts with the smallest of children if it is to be a lifelong habit and this perfectly sweet collection of four Elmer board books is a super way to start your favourite little one off on such a journey.

Each little board book is sturdy, well designed – and particularly important, the exactly right size for small dimpled hands to clasp onto and wave around excitedly.

As one might expect, vibrant colours abound and are accompanied by simple text to which tinies will relate well. I cannot recommend these highly enough. As well as the joys of the stories and colourful illustrations, simple concepts are shared. For example, in Elmer’s Friends the reader is introduced to those friends with comments such as ‘Hello Snake. You’re longer than anybody’.

While these might not suit everyone’s school library – those with Early Childhood centres or who accommodate younger siblings might differ – they are certainly a gorgeous gift for the small people in your life.

Read about the evolution of Elmer here and the always wonderful Sparklebox has heaps of resources here.

And now, sit back and enjoy an Elmer experience here.



Monday Memory – The Story of Ferdinand – Munro Leaf. Illustrated by Robert Lawson.



In 1935 Munro Leaf apparently wrote a little story about a kind and gentle bull in order to give his friend, virtually unknown artist, Robert Lawson a subject to illustrate. [Lawson went on to later win both the Caldecott and Newberry medals]

When the book was subsequently published in 1936, just nine months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, this charming story attracted far more attention than either might have assumed. Franco’s supporters denounced it as ‘pacifist’ and not much later in Nazi Germany, Hitler ordered it burned for similar reasoning. Mahatma Gandhi proclaimed it openly as his favourite children’s book and apparently even Stalin allowed it to remain available in communist Poland.

All that aside, the tale about a little bull who prefers to sit peacefully and smell beautiful flowers rather than butt heads with all the other calves has remained a favourite of thousands of readers all around the world. In 2011 at the time of its 75th anniversary, the book had sold millions of copies and been translated into 60 languages. Not bad for a story which is rumoured to have been written in just one afternoon!

When  five men from the bullfights in Rondo come to choose from the newly grown bull calves, Ferdinand is the only one who remains unperturbed and uninterested. While the other young bulls caper and try to impress, Ferdinand continues with his usual pastime of smelling the flowers – until he accidentally sits on a bee! Going mad with the pain from the of the sting, Ferdinand’s wild careering across the fields convinces the selectors that he is just the ferocious bull they need.

The debut of Ferdinand the ‘Ferocious’ along with a most handsome matador is a great drawcard for the ladies of the town and of course, Ferdinand, not being a fighter, is far more interested in the flowers the ladies wear in their hair much to everyone’s disappointment. Ferdinand is sent home to his pasture where he spent the rest of his life happily among the perfumed meadow flowers.

Ferdinand has been honoured in many ways, particularly cinematic tributes but probably the best known of these is the 1938 Walt Disney short animated film (with apparently the central matador figure modelled on Walt himself!).

Just to get some idea of the extraordinary impact of Ferdinand – click on the image below to go to the Google gallery of images of everyone’s favourite bull – everything from tattoos to jigsaw puzzles to china figurines – fascinating!!


The Monster Who Ate Australia: 30th Anniversary Edition – Michael Salmon


Ford St Publishing


ISBN: 9781925000542 (hardcover)
9781925000559 (paperback)
Publication date:
August 1st 2014
Extent: 32 pages
Format: Landscape picture book 270 x 225mm
$19.95 (hardcover)
$12.95 (paperback)

Age guide: 5 –9 year olds

RRP: $19.95 –hardcover/$12.95 paperback

I think back over 20 plus years of teaching and reflect on how many ‘geography’ lessons I’ve taught in either Lower School classrooms or the library with the aid of so many of Michael’s books.  If you’ve never had the joy of reading aloud The Great Tasmanian Tiger Hunt to a class of five year olds and have them squealing ‘He’s THERE!’ all the way through it, in fits of laughter – your teaching experience is missing out!!

So it is with great pleasure that I am able to review the 30th Anniversary edition of Michael’s The Monster Who Ate Australia. Burra the Boggabri lives in Uluru, peacefully and happily, until it starts to swarm with noisy tourists who keep him awake with their rowdy antics. Fed up with all this disruption Burra sets off to find a new home and treks all the way around Australia, not only visiting national icons but eating them! From the Royal Perth Yacht Club to Adelaide’s Festival Hall to Lake Burley Griffin and the National Gallery, to the Sydney Opera House and onto the Big Pineapple, Burra tries his best to find somewhere to fit in. By far the lowest point in this journey of discovery is being locked up in Taronga Park Zoo. Luckily, nothing is safe from Burra’s appetite and he stealthily escapes after nibbling away the cage bars.  In the end, like so many other travellers, Burra realises that there is no place like home, after he arrives back at Uluru, completely exhausted from his epic expedition.

Like all Michael’s books this is a humorous colourful romping adventure and like many of them is such a wonderful way to share special locations in our nation with little people, giving them a sense of place and a pride in our unique natural and built landscape.

Plotting Burra’s journey on maps, finding out more about the places he visits/eats, conversations about which students have travelled to other states, starting a communication with interstate peers are all part of the fun and learning that accompany such a book.

This is a splendid opportunity to introduce Michael’s work to the newest generation of readers and is worthy of a place on any library bookshelf – or home shelf. I know where this copy is staying!

Highly recommended for Prep children and up!

Stay posted for the upcoming Q&A with Michael here on Just So Stories – I guarantee you will love it!

Bubbay: a Christmas Adventure – Josie Wowolla Boyle/Fern Martins



  • Published :Oct 2012
  • Pages: 48
  • ISBN: 9781921248726
  • Ages :Lower primary
  • Format: Hard Cover

Teaching notes can be found here.


With themes about loneliness/friendship/hope and Christmas, this is a timely book as we get closer to Christmas..

Bush magic is always special and when it comes at Christmas time, it’s even more special. Bubbay is a little boy who lives alone in the desert, looking after his herd of goats. The only human with whom he has contact is Mrs Timms. He swaps goats’ milk for eggs and while he is generally happy in his own company there are times when he does get lonely so he always enjoys his visits with Mrs Timms.

This Christmas Eve is different though. Bubbay feels sad when he thinks about everyone else getting ready for festive celebrations in their homes – and suddenly, more than anything, he wishes he had a Christmas tree, presents, a home and a family.

Imagine his surprise when a streak of shimmering light swoops down from the sky before him and a little Christmas tree appears. Even more surprising is that the tree talks to him! It tells him that if he can find five very special items for decorations on its branches, he will have a very special Christmas!

A stone, a feather, an egg and a seed might not be too difficult to find – but a shell? In the desert?

How will he ever manage such a task?

Suddenly, the glow of his own little fire reveals old grandmother Gubarlee appearing to the sound of tapsticks and singing.  Throughout the rest of the magical Christmas Eve Gubarlee guides Bubbay to find each of the special decorations – and they finish just in time for sunrise.

As the desert dawn floods the landscape with light, Bubbay sees Mrs Timms approaching, her arms wide open, inviting him to come and be her own little boy.  Truly this is a very special Christmas for both these characters, finding comfort, company and love in each other’s presence.

A lovely and gentle tale about reaching out to others in the real and the spiritual worlds, lavishly illustrated with vibrant colours depicting the desert and it’s animal inhabitants.

Highly recommended for Lower/Middle Primary children.

Silly Birds – written and illustrated by Gregg Dreise


Magabala Books

Author:  Gregg Dreise

Published: Jun 2014

Pages: 32

ISBN: 9781922142993

Ages: Lower primary

RRP : $24.95

silly birds

Way back before Once-upon-a-time time, there was the Dreamtime, and during this period there was Maliyan.

So starts this gorgeous morality tale from Gregg Driess, a Kamilaroi man, born and raised in St George, Queensland.  Gregg was raised in a family that loved sport, music and poetry and he is currently a teacher on the beautiful Sunshine Coast.

Inspired by a story from his uncle about a cockatoo taught to speak both English and Italian, and reflecting on the oft repeated saying of his Elders that its ‘hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys’, Gregg has presented an amusing and instructive tale.

Maliyan was a young eagle with a loving family – parents who were proud of him and looked after him well. Through their teaching he learned to listen carefully and how to see things a long away. They didn’t want him to be a wombah thigaraa [silly birds in the Gamilaraay language of the Kamilaroi people].

As Maliyan grew older he was well respected – until he met Wagun. Wagun was a real wombah thigaraa, always talking, usually about himself, always running around without looking carefully and he never listened.  He was a real bragger. While the Elders frowned upon Wagun, Maliyan thought he seemed fun. They began to sing together, and making up silly dances to go with their silly songs. Things got worse as other young birds joined Wagun and Maliyan and calamities followed – eating too much food, so that it became scarcer and scarcer, throwing their rubbish into the waterholes and polluting the drinking water and just generally being silly.

Like all parents, Maliyan’s mother and father were worried about their son running around with the wrong crowd and when he realised this he became sad. He went to the Elders to ask the Wise Ones their advice. They told him ‘It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys’ and he began to understand. Remembering his own power to see and hear things, and to look and listen, he passed on this wisdom to younger birds who responded to his words. Once again Maliyan was a proud eagle and before long the birds were all working together to fix the problems and build for the future. All except Wagun, that is.  Because he took no notice, Wagun lost his ability to fly, was selfish and kept trying to have fun instead of helping. He grew lonely with no friends and all he could do was scratch around on the ground looking for seeds and fallen berries.

“Now the eagles remind their children about the story of Maliyan.

 Children are reminded to always look and listen before speaking.

To always respect Elders’ knowledge and experience.

 To only take what you need and never be too greedy.

And to always choose your friends wisely, because it is hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys.”

Wonderful book with absolutely sumptuous illustrations in a modern Indigenous style – and stylish endpapers!

Highly recommended and perfect for cross-cultural studies in the AC and many discourses around the themes.


eagle Click on the image for teaching notes