Monthly Archives: August 2019

Roald Dahl’s Beastly Brutes & Heroic Human Beans



A Brilliant Press-out Paper Adventure

Roald Dahl: Illustrations by Quentin Blake


August 2019

ISBN: 9781760891589

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $39.99

Roald Dahl is really like the ‘gift that keeps on giving’ don’t you think? For decades thousands of children have been eating up his stories which all remain as fresh and funny as when they were first published. New generations continue to relish his often wicked humour and unforgettable characters.

This new scrumdiddlyumptious volume will further both entertain and delight readers with its focus on five of Dahl’s favourite stories with fascinating facts about many quirky or purely vile characters (think Mr and Mrs Twit!) and the superbly creative bonus of being able to create their own ‘magical mischievous’ art through the press-out pages.

It is almost too special to start on the press-outs but I’m dying to see what they will look like when done! A really cute (and sensible) addition is the envelope inside the back cover to store the pieces – good thinking!

My only dilemma really is who will be the lucky ‘golden ticket’ winner to be the recipient of my review copy – but I suspect youngest granddaughter will be the fortunate soul 😉.

This is a simply splendiferous concept book which will make the ultimate perfect gift for any existing or potential fan of Dahl’s brilliance in capturing imaginations.

With Roald Dahl Day approaching it would also make for a marvellous prize for a lucky reader if you hold an event for the celebrations or of course, one to stash away for a Christmas parcel.

Highly recommended for imaginative readers from around 8 years upwards.

Here’s an interesting little video I recently stumbled upon that provides some additional insight into Dahl.

Murder Most Unladylike #8: Top Marks for Murder – Robin Stevens




August 2019

ISBN: 9780241348383

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $16.99

Yes there are seven previous books but this series has been somewhat of a ‘sleeper’ in my library. Now, however, due to the enthusiasm of several devoted fans it is steadily growing in its popularity. I know that this newest volume will be avidly sought after and the reservation list will be frustrating for some of my girls.

Deepdean School for Girls might seem to be an innocent place but that’s never the case and the current state of affairs is no exception. When Daisy and Hazel return after their absence the place is humming with anticipation of the Anniversary Weekend but parents begin to arrive and poisoning sends shock ripples throughout the school. Everything seems to point to a parent being the guilty party and the girls are fearful that if the perpetrator is not caught, Deepdean might cease to exist altogether.

As always this is almost like a very dark and deadly Malory Towers but the power of ‘school stories’ is always evident. When some murder is thrown in amongst a gang of smart and sassy girls there’s bound to be loads of excitement, suspense and clever detection work to be had – an irresistible combination for my middle school readers!

Lucky and Spike – Norma MacDonald



Magabala Books

February 2019

ISBN: 9781921248177

RRP: $17.99

Back in 2013 Norma MacDonald introduced us to the sprightly joy of a little Spinifex mouse, elusive tiny creature of the Pilbara region in Western Australia– a creature many of us will never otherwise know or see.

Now Norma turns our attention full square onto the dangerous plight that faces not only these adorable little animals but so many others of our natural fauna – feral cats.

I admit it. I’m a cat person. I love our two cats and have owned many before them but I’m also equally passionate about protecting our native animals from them. The prevalence of feral cats, irresponsibly caused by white Australians, has wreaked havoc and continues to do so in our wildlife populations.

Lucky and Spike are out on their nocturnal adventure in search of food and are pursued by one such feral cat as well as a hunting owl. Thankfully in their terror they are able to hide close to the people who are around their campfire. The camp dog takes care of the cat but they still have to evade the owl. It’s a close escape for the intrepid pair – predators abound for such tiny residents of the Pilbara.

This is a great insight into desert natural life and an excellent starting point for simple discussions about protecting our precious species.

Highly recommended for children from about five years upwards.

Sleep tight, Platypup – Renee Treml




February 2019

ISBN: 9780143789697

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $19.99

I always find something entirely magical about Renee’s books. Both her text and her illustrations are equally charming and so beautifully suited to little readers.

As a child I knew what it was to be afraid of the dark. I did eventually grow out of it (well except for when my daughter tricked me into watching The Sixth Sense because of my Bruce Willis passion) but for many small people those mysterious sounds and shadows of the night can pose a real anxiety.

Little Platypup is one of those youngsters. The weird sounds of the bush outside the burrow are so worrisome and it’s easy to let the imagination run away. But Mother Platypus is both wise and patient and knows exactly how to reassure a little puggle.  Those sounds outside at night are merely the same ones heard through the daytime – it’s just that at night when all is quieter they seem so much more mysterious and queer.

For little humans who are still nervous of night time this is a perfect book to share – and talk about of course. We can’t always address our children’s worries through books but sometimes they are the perfect solution or entrée into assuaging the troubles they face.

Highly recommended for little people from toddlers upwards.

Toffle Towers #1: Fully Booked – Tim Harris/James Foley




August 2019

ISBN: 9780143795421

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $14.99

Tim Harris, creator of the remarkable Mr Bambuckle, presents an equally daffy protagonist in this new series. Chegwin Toffle may be only ten years old but he is one very determined entrepreneur albeit prone to wild imaginings and daydreams. Chegwin is the sole beneficiary of his hitherto unknown great-uncle Terrence Toffle’s estate which turns out to be an extremely run-down and unprofitable hotel on the other side of the country. As one would expect Chegwin knows nothing about running a hotel and his parents know less if possible but being a caring child Chegwin is determined to give it a go if only to save the jobs of those loyal employees still in place at Toffle Towers.

It’s a tough gig in many ways not the least of which is the rival and wildly successful hotel nearby but Chegwin is not a dreamer for nothing. His imaginative strategies and the support of new friends and eccentric staff see a real turn-around in the hotel’s fortunes. Things just keep growing and growing and flying buses, milkshake baths and star-gazing dining rooms are just part of the process.

In a success story filled with laughs, odd characters (including Chegwin’s eccentric parents) and hilarious adventures Tim Harris has created a hotel to rival even the legendary Fawlty establishment. James Foley has completely captured the essence of the story and characters in his humorous illustrations and all in all this is bound to be a real hit with young readers.

Highly recommended for readers from around Year 3 upwards who will eagerly be looking forward to the next instalment!

Jack and the Jungle – Malachi Doyle/Paddy Donnelly



A Bloomsbury Young Reader


May 2019

ISBN: 9781472959614
Imprint: Bloomsbury Education
Series: Bloomsbury Young Readers

RRP: $9.99

Many of us are continually searching for quality stories and books that will not only engage our struggling readers but help them progress in their reading journey. Certainly this stands for me as I help No-Longer-Small in her language difficulties. I have found from long experience and more recently by being super-selective with what I choose for her to read at home that a book written by an author with a real feel for what children enjoy hits the right spot and spurs the reader on.

Yes this range of readers has equivalent recognised ‘levels’ to inform purchasers but more than that they are a fun narrative and offer some extension ideas for educators and parents. They also have the advantage of attractive illustrations to enhance the text. The series is further informed by having leaders in reading expertise and strategies as advisors so one can be assured that there is a sound foundation underlying the development of the titles.

If you are searching for quality reading material for your lower level emergent readers this would be not only  a fine choice for the above but economically reasonable as well.

Highly recommended for educators, home schoolers or those looking for read-alone titles for either younger readers or those who are facing some challenges.

That’s Not My Koala – Fiona Watt/Rachel Wells


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Harper Collins

July 2019

ISBN: 9781474945561

ISBN 10: 1474945562

Imprint: Usborne – GB

List Price: 14.99 AUD

Hurray for the 20th anniversary of one of the most delightful concept books for little ones ever!

Teeny people will love stroking the touchy-feely aspect of each page with the shiny claws, fuzzy tummy or soft paws.

Everyone who loves to read to babies and toddlers will want this in their basket of books and it’s guaranteed to be read and re-read many times. Luckily these sturdy board books have a very long life/chew/dribble span!

If you don’t have the original copy you will definitely want to acquire this one be it for kids or grandkids – or simply a beautiful little gift for a new little human in your circle.

Highly recommended for babies upwards! If only this blog had tactile additions!

Wilam [a Birrarung Story] – Aunty Joy Murphy & Andrew Kelly with illustrations by Lisa Kennedy



Walker Books

April 2019

ISBN: 9781925381764
Imprint: Black Dog Books
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

For the many readers who loved Welcome to Country and those who are committed to developing a quality collection of First Australian resources, this is a superb addition to your shelves.

The text along with the richly detailed illustrations offers readers a glimpse of one day in the life of the Birrarung (Yarra) river. The many beautiful renditions and mentions of native flora and fauna that inhabit the river’s environs create a vivid and colourful experience for the reader. The inclusion of many words in language (clearly elucidated both in meaning and pronunciation in a glossary) does not hinder the natural flow of the words but rather makes it all the more lyrical.

I cannot emphasise enough how this picture book simply bursts with life and the complete affinity with country that is held close by our First Australians. As some of you know my own family are proud Wiradjuri people and my daughters are very committed to raising the grandchildren with pride in their heritage. This does not preclude the sharing of other language groups’ culture and country. Promoting the understanding between our cultures is paramount to developing the much-needed empathy and acceptance we hope to grow in our young people.

Highly recommended for all readers from prep upwards.

Little Frida – Anthony Browne



Walker Books

April 2019

ISBN: 9781406381221
Imprint: Walker
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

The absolutely mega-talented Anthony Browne brings his own distinctive style to the story of another fabulous artist, Frida Kahlo.

This glorious picture book gives younger readers an insight into the background and artistic genesis of Kahlo who has, over the years, become an increasingly iconic artist particularly among younger people.

Told simplistically with some detail about Frida’s early life and the beginnings of her imaginative journey into her unique artistic journey this book is a pleasure both to hold and to read.

Of course Anthony’s own surrealist imagery is a perfect approach to the work of the most celebrated artists in this genre. The superb colour palette echoes that of Frida’s own works and so is a double insight into her life and work.

The growing number of biographical works for younger readers is proving a huge drawcard for many children and this factional version of Kahlo’s history will be a welcome addition to your shelves. For me, with my love (bordering obsession) with Browne’s work, this will be a keeper for my own shelves.

Highly recommended for readers from around 5 years upwards.

Taking Tom Murray Home – Tim Slee



Harper Collins

July 2019

ISBN: 9781460757864

ISBN 10: 1460757866

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

RRP $32.99

The inaugural Banjo Prize competition attracted 320 entries but it was Taking Tom Murray Home that took out the first prize with its truly authentic Australian voice. Tim Slee’s novel bristles with laconic wit, quirky characters and bitter-sweet emotions and underlines with eloquence the dilemmas faced by so many of our rural Aussies who are doing it tough.

When the bank forecloses on Tom Murray’s dairy farm he is determined to go down in a blaze – literally. He sells off his stock, empties the house of his family’s possessions and burns it down. Unfortunately Tom is trapped in the fire probably due to his weak heart problem and loses his life. His widow Dawn refuses to allow his death be in vain and decides to take his body to Melbourne for burial thinking the several hundred kilometre ‘funeral procession’ from their small rural town will offer people pause for thought on the plight of so many struggling country folk. She is persuaded to take the coffin on the back of a neighbour’s vintage horse-drawn milk cart for even more impact and so begins a poignant, fraught and dramatic passive protest.

Told from the viewpoint of Jack, son of Tom and Dawn and twin of Jenny, the journey begins with a local drama when the town bank burns down. Immediately, the whole protest/procession takes on a new and controversial aspect.  As the travellers move slowly towards Melbourne they are joined by supporters of all types, thwart the frustrated police who try to find ways to stop them and alerted to a wave of fires that are erupting around the country targeting banks and supermarkets – who are seen as the corporate buddies threatening the livelihoods and lives of the farmers. Rallied by stirring words and the community spirit the grief and loss and frustration are eased and bolstered by hope and possibilities.

The twist in the end is both a surprise and a damning indictment of the pressures put upon the families who are fighting for their survival and will give many readers cause to reflect on actions that could make a difference to those who are the ‘backbone’ of our country.

While essentially a novel that would be equally enjoyed and appreciated by readers both young and old, there is a liberal sprinkling of swearing which might preclude younger readers if you were to put this in your school library.

Highly recommended for readers from around 14 years upwards.