Tag Archives: Family Life

Two for Littlies – lift-the-flap board books

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Where’s George’s Dinosaur? a lift-the-flap book

Penguin Australia

  • January 2022
  • ISBN: 9780241543542
  • Imprint: Ladybird
  • Format: Board Book
  • RRP: $14.99

We all know two sure things – little ones love lift-the-flap books – and the thirst for Peppa Pig and family never diminishes!

George’s dinosaur is missing – where can it be? – so Mummy and Peppa help him look for the missing toy. Of they go, back-tracking their day… could Mr Dinosaur have been left at the zoo? There’s a tip of a tail that looks just like his – but no. Maybe when they went on the train?? Could he be at the castle?? They have had a busy day so they really need to look everywhere.

Your smalls will love the giggly surprises of lifting the flaps to see who is hiding and giggle even more when Mr Dinosaur is finally found.

With its foiled cover and the always bright colours of the Peppa Pig illustrations, this is a guaranteed hit and would make a lovely gift too.

Eric Carle’s Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Other Nursery Rhymes: a lift-the-flap book

Penguin Australia

  • January 2022
  • ISBN: 9780593224311
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Board Book
  • RRP: $19.99

Many years ago when I first started teaching Year 1 (the first year at school) we always kicked off with nursery rhymes as our topic/theme because it was something with which most little kids had some familiarity so could be engaged. Then it seemed that over the years the numbers of kids knowing nursery rhymes dropped markedly. So for me, books like this are a godsend really because the combination of Eric Carle, lift-the-flap and the rhymes makes for a win for little ones who benefit so very much from the rhythm and rhyme of traditional nursery offerings.

...revisit five classic nursery rhymes: “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider,” and “The Wheels on the Bus.”

I’m very much in love with this (as I am with anything Eric Carle – what a loss to us all *sad face*)……….and again, this would make a very beautiful and much-loved gift for a new baby or little person in your circle.

Einstein the Penguin – Iona Rangeley. Illustrated y David Tazzyman.

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Harper Collins Australia

December 2021

  • ISBN: 9780008475963
  • ISBN 10: 0008475962
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD

This is a fun new read for your kiddos who are moving on from those first easy chapter books to something a little more challenging. Imagine stirring up Paddington stories with Mr Popper’s Penguins with a good dash of Finding Nemo and just the tiniest hint of The Wrong Trousers, and you’ll be coming close. And in saying that, I am certainly not implying that this is derivative, merely that it reminds me strongly of all these stories with its fun and joyousness.

When the Stewart family visit London Zoo on a very gloomy winter’s afternoon the children are not very thrilled but certainly brighten up when they encounter a very endearing little penguin on their way out. When the children protest strenuously about leaving the penguin, and insisting that the bird accompany them home, Mrs Stewart kindly tells the little penguin he is always welcome at their home, in an effort to divert the kids. So, of course, the very next day there is a knock on the door and – lo and behold!- there is a penguin on the doorstep, complete with backpack.

As it turns out, Einstein is a penguin from Australia – ‘Sydney’ Zoo (well, that would actually be Taronga Zoo) to be exact and this smart little bird manages to convey to Imogen and Arthur, that he is here to find his much-loved friend, Isaac – who was whisked away with no due regard for comradely associations.

This is a story that is both funny and endearing as the children, especially would-be detective, Imogen, do their utmost to re-unite Einstein and Isaac – well, at least so each knows the other is safe and well.

It is both well-paced and ‘cute’ really and I foresee would be a big hit as a read-aloud – I would probably pitch it at Year 2s or 3s personally. Highly recommended for your younger readers from around 7 years upwards.

Clarice Bean: Think Like an Elf – Lauren Child

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Harper Collins Australia

November 2021

  • ISBN: 9780008470845
  • ISBN 10: 0008470847
  • Imprint: HarperCollins GB
  • List Price: 24.99 AUD

I am just sorry this one didn’t arrive in time for me to get it read and reviewed before Christmas because it really is a perfect gift to share with a young reader. In her own inimitable manner, Lauren Child, takes us into Clarice’s home and family with side-splitting results as they prepare for a festive season very different to their normal ones. No hundreds of potatoes to peel, nor a house full of people, nor Mum and Dad slumping with exhaustion. This Christmas is going to be QUIET.

For Clarice, who normally looks forward to Christmas so much, this does not feel right, and she is struggling to feel the Xmas spirit as she usually would. Without all the extended family expected for the celebrations, and even her bestie, Betty Moody, going to Japan (!!) for Christmas, no Advent calendar with tiny doors to open, and almost no money in her toadstool/piggy bank to buy presents, things are looking very gloomy and not the least bit tinselly sparkly.

As you would always expect, nothing runs smoothly for the Tuesday family from an issue with selecting the Xmas tree, the accidentally too-large turkey which ends up on the floor before being eaten by Cement, the dog and a random fox (in which no one believes), Clarice, being helpful, but mixing up the airmail parcels and more. All of which makes for all the hilarious mayhem we have come to expect from this talented creator. The interspersing of all the Ruby Redfort references, are just a crack-up of course as Clarice tries to follow the advice and sagacity of her literary hero.

Naturally it won’t matter one jot to your readers if this was on offer when school starts back, when Christmas and New Year are just a memory but equally, if you were buying this for a gift (for next Xmas!) or to add to your store of Xmas stories, just perfect. It is beautifully bound, with the dust-jacket being more Christmassy than the actual binding, but both still delightful, with lovely Christmas tree endpapers. And of course, Lauren’s illustrations throughout, as always, are charming and completely in keeping with the quirkiness of the narrative.

Highly recommended for readers from around 8 years upwards.

What Zola Did on Sunday – Melina Marchetta

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Penguin

  • September 2021
  • ISBN: 9781760895228
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • RRP: $12.99

This series has just been pure joy from the very first word with each new story building on the warmth, friendship and community of Zola’s neighbourhood. Now that we have finished the entire week with Zola I feel quite sad but I’m hopeful that Melina might take Zola and her friends, not to mention her mishaps, on a longer journey for us. I’m going to sit back and wait for What Zola Did in January now *grin*.


The climax of the entire series is the St Odo’s fete where so much that has featured along the way all comes together: the knitting, gardening, pets, music and baking as well as the entire cast of charming characters.

Of course, it was to be expected that Zola would once again be in the middle of a muddle and when she doesn’t quite manage to hold onto Tim Tam the cat in the face of excitable dogs before the Pet Parade starts, there is quite the calamity. But, despite the kerfuffle, the fete still manages to be a huge success and the funds raised by this caring community give everyone much satisfaction – particularly as their efforts will support the homeless, which gives the reader pause for reflection when one thinks about these happy families in their homes. Throughout the entire series, the opportunities for meaningful discussion and action learning have been plentiful, all the while without being ‘preachy’.

I feel sure you must have caught onto these sweet books for your newly independent readers by now – but just in case somehow you have overlooked them, do yourself and your little peeps a big favour and put them on your order list.

Highly recommended for readers from around 6 upwards.

It’s Not You, It’s Me – Gabrielle Williams

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Allen & Unwin

August 2021

ISBN: 9781760526078P

Imprint: A & U Children

RRP: $19.99

Yes, that tag line – Freaky Friday meets Pretty Little Liars – really hits the mark. This is one helluva time-travel that not just the life-swap but the cities/continents/decades swap as well! And what a ride it is, especially when there’s a serial killer thrown into the mix.

Holly Fitzgerald, of Melbourne, has just finished celebrating her 40th birthday lunch with friends when she wakes up on a footpath – make that, sidewalk – in LA in the body of a 16-year-old girl named Trinity. Literally, what the……? Holly stumbles her way through meeting a neighbour (cute boy – Australian, coincidentally), going to her ‘home’ and then adjusting to a ‘family’ whilst feverishly trying to piece together what on earth has happened to her, and how – and most of all, where then is Trinity?

The one resonant fact shared between her actual life and this strange 1980s faux life in LA is an orange Brother typewriter – second-hand and vintage in Melbourne but shiny and new here in Los Angeles. Of course, the odd synchronicity of a Holly Hobbie doll, identical to one she was given as a newborn, being on Trinity’s bed does strike her as a little strange as well.

When Brother Orange, the typewriter, starts delivering furious messages from Trinity, trapped in what she scornfully refers to as Holly’s boring, middle-aged existence and demanding the situation be fixed, Holly needs to work through a lot of unanswered questions about her past, her life and the connections between herself and Trinity’s family. – and at the same time, save both their lives from the Mariposa Murderer.

This is, by turns, hilarious and clever, fascinating and frightening, but above all a real page-turner as the reader demands to know what on earth is going on and why. There is a smattering of swearing which may bother you for your younger secondary readers but mature readers from 13 or 14 upwards who enjoy a thrilling narrative will relish this one as it explores the eternal questions of ‘what if’ in a very original and engaging manner. Oh, and absolutely stunning cover art!

Highly recommended for Year 8 upwards – it will be on my list for my next ChocLit meeting for sure!

Eliza Vanda’s Button Box – Emily Rodda

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Harper Collins Australia

May 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460759608
  • ISBN 10: 1460759605
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 22.99 AUD

Buttons three, attend to me!

Take me where I want to be!

Emily Rodda returns with her own special brand of sparkling magic inthis delightful new fantasy adventure. Milly Dynes has been a bit down in the dumps of late. She still loves living in Tidgy Bay, in the holiday park she and her dad have called home for six years but there seem to be problems surrounding her which sometimes make her wish she could escape. Things have been changing at home with Julie and a new baby sister to think of, her friends are all going away for the holidays, high school is looming and grumpy old Mrs Meaney have all been causing Milly some real anxiety.

Then on a cold and wet wintery day, when there is never an expectation of anyone wanting to rent a cabin, along comes Eliza Vanda with her sewing, her small brown mouse friend and assistant, Victor, and her amazing button tin. And just like that Milly also becomes an assistant and helper for Eliza, finding herself whisked away with Victor on some very magical adventures and meeting some very odd characters. This is no overly dramatic on-the-edge-of-your-seat adventure but a gentle and winsome one where small deeds ensure happy results to problems.

Your readers who revel in imaginative and feel-good stories will love this – who wouldn’t want to go on errands to places where unicorns, frog princes and other magical beings abound?

Very highly recommended for readers from middle primary upwards – it’s a delightful and highly enjoyable read.

A Weekend with Oscar – Robyn Bavati

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Walker Books

July 2021

ISBN: 9781760653040
Imprint: Walker Books Australia

Australian RRP: $16.99
New Zealand RRP: $19.99

I had already ordered this for our library collection based on the publisher’s promo so receiving it as a review copy was especially welcome and I am not disappointed. This is a beautiful funny and poignant coming-of-age story that will enchant your lower secondary students in particular. As an additional and very welcome ‘bonus’ it explores the sometimes fraught, but also enriching, experience of having a sibling with a disability.

Jamie is 16 and lives with his mum and his younger brother Oscar, who has Down Syndrome. Life has been tough for the past year following the death of his father and often Jamie thinks he should be helping his mum more, though she insists she is fine and that Jamie should continue to focus on his senior studies. While his grief is still very palpable and Jamie often finds it difficult to contain his grief, his emotions definitely improve when he meets Zara, who has recently arrived at his school. It is particularly apt that Zara also lives with a sibling with a disability but even before the pair discover that, they connect as like-minds who have similar goals and aspirations.

When their mum needs to go away to Perth for a weekend, Jamie volunteers to take care of Oscar. After all, he knows Oscar’s routine and needs inside out and he is confident he can manage but after a weekend filled with mishaps, Monday rolls around and Mum does not appear. At first, it seems this is because a huge storm has delayed flights but days slip by and both Jamie and Oscar begin to be agitated – for very different reasons. Jamie’s challenge to manage his little brother and his needs and find his mum and bring her home makes for one of the most delightful YA narratives I’ve read in some time.

Living with a disability is not easy. Living with someone with a disability is also, often, not easy – and especially, I would say for a young adult. This is a novel that explores this aspect of disability with real sensitivity, humor and resilience. I loved reading this so much that I consumed it in one binge read one night last week (yes last week of term when I was dead tired – pretty good indication how great it is really!!).

Will be talking this up big time with my ChocLit readers and certainly promoting it widely in the library after the holidays.

Highly recommended for your readers from around Year 7 upwards – it’s just a pure delight.

100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze – Clayton Zane Comber

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Harper Collins Australia

June 2021

  • ISBN: 9781460759455
  • ISBN 10: 1460759451
  • Imprint: HarperCollins AU
  • List Price: 19.99 AUD
  • Age: From 14 years

Believe me when I tell you that you will fall in love with Xander, and be sad to leave him at the end of this beautiful feel-good coming-of-age novel.

Xander loves to make lists and #1 on his list of People I Love Most in the World is his Nanna, who has lived with him and his mum since Xander’s dad died. Nanna has been Xander’s ally, confidante, support team and his very best friend and now that she has stage 4 cancer, Xander is determined to do whatever it takes to save her. Nanna wants him to make a list of 100 remarkable feats that he will hope to achieve by the end of the school year. It’s going to be a very tricky mission especially with feats like:

#2 Make a friend

#10 Kiss a girl (preferably Ally Collins)

#28 Go to a party

#58 Get a job (any job)

#87 Learn to keep secrets

#100 Save Nanna

As we read Xander’s list we get a very clear insight into his quirky personality and a poignant understanding of why his Nanna has encouraged him to both create and fulfil the remarkable feats. For someone who knows her time is short ,and who has been this beautiful boy’s stalwart support, the greatest gift she can give him is the confidence and skills to step out on his own.

When Xander’s 100 remarkable feats list unintentionally becomes a matter of public record, he is surprised to find that he has help from unexpected quarters and many of his feats are accomplished almost before he realises. Xander’s journey into friendships, new situations and stepping well outside his very narrow comfort zone is both hilarious and moving, with one of the most genuinely likeable cast of characters I have encountered in a long time.

I will certainly be giving it my best and biggest promotion at our final ChocLit meeting for this term during the coming week and I highly recommend it for your readers from around Year 7 upwards. The themes of grief/loss, resilience, identity, belonging, mental health in particular will resonate with many teens, and for your classroom program you will find the teaching guide a great resource.