The Taming of the Queen – Philippa Gregory



  • Simon & Schuster UK |
  • 448 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471132971 |
  • August 2015

List Price

AU$ 45.00

NZ$ 49.99

Why would a woman marry a serial killer?
Because she cannot refuse…

Every now and again I lash out and actually read a ‘grown up’ book and being a very genuine admirer of Philippa Gregory’s historical fiction was most excited to be able to review her latest book.

Kateryn (also known as Catherine) Parr was the last and surviving wife of the infamous Tudor monarch, Henry VIII. She is also arguably the least known of his wives in a sense – even the rather innocuous Anne of Cleves had some more notoriety if only because the marriage was so short-lived without the grisly end of other less fortunate of Henry’s spouses.

For those who have watched that excellent BBC series The Tudors or studied some medieval history there will be some background knowledge of the main facts. Philippa Gregory’s talent lies in bringing history to life by building on the facts through deeper research not only of the direct subject but also the prevailing attitudes, customs and daily lives of the period in question.

Kateryn was a beautiful 30 year old married to a much older husband when Henry Tudor first decided to make her his wife. When her husband died, the aging King Henry wasted no time in proposing to Kateryn, insisting she come immediately to court, despite her still being in mourning; and so began Henry’s last marriage and his first to a queen who despite her personal preferences, devoted herself to his well-being and also to the task of reuniting father and royal children thus ensuring those children were recognised and respected.

Kateryn had already secretly been planning to marry Sir Thomas Seymour, and indeed following Henry’s death in 1547, finally did so. Despite her disappointment in not being able to pursue her true love yearning, she proved a loyal and diplomatic wife to an increasingly despotic and erratic Henry.

She raised many eyebrows and incurred some real wrath for what was perceived (but never proven) as Protestant heresy, but was able to avoid the dire persecution inflicted on others, innocent or guilty, by engaging the king’s support and rekindling his loyalty to her.  She was perhaps the most scholarly woman of her times and demonstrated this through her writing and published works as well as her ability to match wits with the men surrounding her.

As always for these complicated times, plots and twists of fortune abound and provide fascinating indeed compelling reading offering real insight to the Tudor court and its significant players.

For lovers of historical fiction and particularly Medieval history, I believe, Philippa Gregory is top of the tree. If you have not yet tried out her books, I urge you to do so – you will not be disappointed.

There is a great reading group guide here.


Not Your Usual Bushrangers – Peter Macinnis


Five Mile Press
ISBN: 9781760065690
Published: July 2015
Imprint: Echo Publishing

RRP: $34.95
Many years ago my dad handed me a copy of Frank Clune’s ‘The Wild Colonial Boys’ saying “You should read this.” – a common occurrence as we shared both a literary taste and an interest in colonial history. From that moment I was hooked well and truly on the exploits of the Australian bushrangers.
I never imagined that I would have the privilege of reviewing the latest book from super-clever-clogs and fascinating writer/historian/scientist Peter Macinnis. And yes, I would describe him as such even if he wasn’t a friend of mine!
Peter takes us on a journey through the entire span of Australia’s bushranging history, rather than the focus being on just a few well- known names. While I have been to Ben Hall’s grave and to Melbourne Gaol where Ned Kelly was hung and Thunderbolt’s Rock, amongst other significant sites, I have never heard of most of the rogues and scallywags Peter writes about in this entertaining account. And that of course, is the entire point.
Beginning with those early convict ‘bolters’ (who perhaps aren’t how we would now define bushrangers) right up to some youths in the post Great War years trying their hand at the ‘game’, Peter traces the development of the Antipodean highwaymen (and women!) with an engaging and often humorous slant.
As always, his work is meticulously researched and in his searching he has uncovered many interesting original documents and reports which examine the contemporary records, attitudes and consequences of all stakeholders.
And naturally, although the bushrangers are the focus of the book, the reader also gains a real insight into colonial Australia from the time of European invasion to the early 20th century.
While primarily aimed at an adult audience, this is a book which would sit easily in a school library as a reference point for those units dealing with Australia’s history since the White colonisation as it is written in a very accessible style.
I can highly recommend this history for both your school library and for your own personal reading. Definitely a winner and worth bailing up your local bookseller!

Download an extract here.


Dog-themed literature covers a wide range of material, from the humor and pathos of "Marley and Me'' to the classic adventure tale "Call of the Wild." Photo taken Thursday, August 9, 2007 in Tacoma. (Photo illustration by Drew Perine/The News Tribune)

Dog-themed literature covers a wide range of material, from the humor and pathos of “Marley and Me” to the classic adventure tale “Call of the Wild.” Photo taken Thursday, August 9, 2007 in Tacoma. (Photo illustration by Drew Perine/The News Tribune)

Dinosaur Disco – Deborah Kelly



ISBN: 9780857981363

Published: 01/10/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s

Extent: 32 pages

Really we can never get enough of dinosaurs! Boys or girls, fiction or nonfiction, surely they must be one of the most eternally popular choices for kids’ books.

In our house this is most definitely true and we loved the crazy dinos shaking their booties and the boards on the disco floor. Lots of rhythm and rhyme and onomatopoeia abound as the dinosaurs salsa, moonwalk and even crump it up.  With so many different types of dinosaurs strutting their stuff the floor starts to really rumble but the very ground shakes with the arrival of a gate crashing T-Rex! Let’s hope he isn’t looking for supper!

The text also cleverly integrates some of those rather pesky long dinosaur names and luckily there is also a pronunciation guide for those of us who are not as able as five year olds to get our tongues around them.   To follow up the story some strange but true facts are also included making this book not only fun but educational.

Daron Parton’s illustrations of the decoratively dressed dinosaurs lend even more quirkiness to the story.

This is bound to be a favourite with many young readers and I’m sure there could be many impromptu disco sessions in your library after a reading.

Highly recommended for boys and girls aged around 3 to 8 years.

Grandad’s Island – Benji Davies



  • Simon & Schuster UK
  • 32 pages |
  • ISBN 9781471119958
  • July 2015


AU$ 14.99

NZ$ 16.99

For many children, losing a grandparent is often their first experience with death and grief. The emotions of this may be openly expressed or may not be so visible to observers. Using a picture book to invite discussion on this topic may be very valuable for either individuals or classes.

There are many quality books that handle the topic of loss with sensitivity and the wise teacher-librarian will usually have quite a collection in order to be ready for the occasions when they are needed.

This new book by Benji Davies examines this topic with a beautiful and gentle grace as the close bond between grandfather and grandson and their final parting is described.  The colourful illustrations of his favourite destination underline the ‘perfect place’ in which Grandad chooses to stay and reassure Syd that Grandad will be happy there.

I also believe this would be an excellent choice to deal with the concerns a child might have about a grandparent going into a care facility.

Watch the book trailer to see a preview and find out more about the award-winning author here.

Once I Heard a Little Wombat – Renee Treml



Penguin Random House Australia

ISBN: 9780857987396

Published: 03/08/2015

Imprint: Random House Australia Children’s


RRP $14.99


Renee Treml has presented another beautiful book for little ones with this re-working of an old nursery rhyme, Once I Saw a Little Bird; and given children a wonderful opportunity to hop, jump, flop and more as the rhythmic text unfolds.


Baby Australian animals romp throughout this board book and Renee’s illustrations are as always just delightful.


Simple but bound to be a favourite with tiny tots, we know a little babe who will love this one!


Highly recommended for little humans of your acquaintance – with Christmas coming up this would be perfect to pop into a Santa sack for someone small and special.


Tashi and the Giant Squid – Anna and Barbara Feinberg




Publisher:Allen & Unwin

Imprint:A & U Children

Pub Date:August 2015

RRP $9.99

When one of the best loved characters from Australian children’s books is turned into a highly acclaimed and hugely popular TV series, you can expect the fun to just keep on coming!

And it does as a new series of Tashi books, based on the animated show (Flying Bark Productions) , hits the shelves.

Jack and Tashi are determined to win the Annual Fishing Competition but the Warlord has other (and more devious) ways of making sure that he ends up with the golden trophy.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t hold onto it for long and when it goes missing, Jack and Tashi need to solve the mystery. Along the way they manage to acquire a baby kraken and it can only be a matter of time before that infant’s mother comes looking for it.

Miss Small thoroughly enjoyed this story – just as much as she does the originals and the TV show and is looking forward to more.

As a delightful bonus, after the story there are several pages of engaging activities such as wordsearches, crosswords, quizzes, mazes and more created by the talented Meredith Costain.

There was great excitement today when the mail arrived with two more in the series. I know what will be on the reading agenda tonight!

With loads of colour, a great story and the activities these are sure to be winners with your readers from around 7 and up!

Girls Uninterrupted: Steps for Building Stronger Girls in a Challenging World



Tanith Carey

Allen & Unwin

Imprint: Icon Books

Published: March 2015

ISBN 9781848318205

RRP $19.99

Tanith Carey  has had a long successful career as a journalist working with a wide variety of some of the world’s leading newspapers and journals. She is also a highly successful author of books particularly several related to parenting, the latest of which is Girls Uninterrupted.

Her work in this area has attracted high praise including endorsement by the likes of Steve Biddulph and her books translated into 12 languages to date.

As I am now working in an all girls’ college, I am seeing firsthand many of the issues which parents of teen girls face today so this book could not be timelier. It will certainly be one I will promote with our college community and parents.

  • Why are girls self-harming and suffering eating disorders in record numbers?
  • Why do girls feel they have to ‘little miss perfects’ who are never allowed to fail?
  • Why are girls turning against each other on social media?
  • What should we tell girls about how to deal with the challenges of everyday sexism and violent misogynistic pornography?
  • How can parents, teachers and grandparents inoculate girls so they can push back against the barrage of unhealthy messages bombarding them about what it means to be female?

Formatted in easy ‘chunked’ steps the book offers practical advice, anecdotes and real help with the increasing pressure of raising happy healthy girls into strong positive women.

This was firstly a series of articles in the New York Times and the resulting publication into a widely praised book is testimony to its usefulness.

As a grandmother now raising a ten year old granddaughter it will also be a ‘go to’ book for me as I help this little one become a Mighty Girl over the next few years.

Highly recommended for anyone who is in the challenging role of bringing up 21st century girls, whether parents/family or educators.