This Hungry Dragon, by Heath McKenzie

This HUNGRY dragon
heard his tummy growl.
Someone who heard it
was a nervous little owl!

A very hungry dragon meets – and eats – a series of unfortunate animals: the owl, a fancy fox, a muddy pig, and more. But eventually he feels sick and a visit from the doctor is needed. When the doctor, too, ends up in the dragon’s belly he figures out a way to get the dragon to spit them all out. the dragon feels better – and has learnt his lesson.

This humorous rhyming picture book will have kids laughing out loud and saying ‘gross’ in equal measure, but whilst animals are eaten, there’s no blood or gore, and every one is fine at the end. The dragon, in gentle reds and pinks, with tiny wings and big round eyes looks silly rather than fierce and the looks on the various animals’ faces as they realise what is happening adds to the humour.

Lots of fun.

This Hungry Dragon, by Heath McKenzie
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760151508

Boomerang and Bat, by Mark Greenwood & Terry Denton

One day he showed them a cricket bat and ball.
‘Wanna play a game?’ he asked.
Sundown and Tiger were willing and Mosquito said he’d give it a go.

When Aboriginal stockman Johnny Mullagh throws a ball back to the settlers playing a game of cricket, they invite him to join in. Soon Johnny, whose real name is Unaarrimin, is a skilled cricketer, spreading the game amongst his friends. When the team is invited to tour England, they are keen, but the Board for Protection of Aborigines says they can’t go. So Johnny and his friends sneak out of the country and head to England to take on the best, and delight crowds with their cricket prowess and their displays of boomerangs, spears and dance.

Boomerang and Bat tells the story of the real first eleven, the first Australian touring team. Greenwood’s text is informative but at the same time captures the emotion of the story, and Denton’s ink and watercolour illustrations bring both landscape and characters to life, capturing the times with detail which young readers will enjoy exploring.

Boomerang and Bat, by Mark Greenwood & Terry Denton
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781743319246

The Last Fifty Miles, by Adam Wakeling

They were fifty miles to victory and defeat, fifty miles to collapse and renewal, and fifty miles to a new place for Australia among the nations of the world. They were among the most significant fifty miles in our history.

After four years of conflict in Turkey, Palestine and Europe, both sides of the Great War conflict are weary and seeking to end the conflict. For the men of the five Australian divisions stationed in France, the end seems a long way away, though, and while they are battle weary they are able to come together under Major-General John Monash and play a decisive role in claiming the last fifty miles – the miles which will see an end to the war.

The Last Fifty Miles is an accessible, detailed account of Australia’s involvement in World War 1 and particularly its role in the final months of the conflict on the Western Front.

Readers are offered insight into the reasons for the war, the main personalities involved on both sides, and the impact of the war on Australians at home as well as those serving.

Suitable for amateur history buffs or anyone wanting to better understand the Great War.

The Last Fifty Miles, by Adam Wakeling
Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN 9780670079148

Blame, by Nicole Trope

She really would like to know if there is any point in her continuing to exist, continuing to feed and dress herself, or even get out of bed in the mornings. She doesn’t think she has ever looked this thin and this old. At a certain point, she seems to have crossed a boundary between waif-like and haggard. ‘So what,’ she thinks, staring at the reflection of her collarbones in the police station mirror. ‘So what.’

Anna and Caro have been best friends since they met a child health clinic when their daughters were babies. Now, though, something terrible has happened. Anne’s daughter is dead, as the result of a terrible accident. And Caro was driving the car that claimed her life.Both women – and their families – are devastated, but now each must make sense of her own version of events.

Blame is a gripping tale of two women and their unraveling of the events which lead to a terrible tragedy. Set over the two days that each is interviewed by police investigating the accident, as well as through each woman’s memories of their friendship and of the complicated, challenging events they have helped each other through over the past ten years.

The issues explored – of loss, betrayal, drink-driving and the complexities of parenthood – are emotionally challenging, but the story is compelling, with the immediacy of the two-day time frame keeping pages turning.


Blame, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760293154

Young Digger, by Anthony Hill

‘How does a German boy like you speak the King’s English so well?’
The child’s manner changed. Outraged, he drew himself to his full height, though he didn’t reach much above Tovell’s wasit, As the band wheezed to a halt, men nearest the door heard the boy exclaim, full of scorn:
‘I am not a German!…I am a Frenchman, monsieur. One of the glorious Allies. I’m one of you!’

As Australian airmen enjoy a sumptuous Christmas lunch in post war Germany in 1918, they are interrupted by the arrival of a small boy. Presuming he is one of the local children, they attempt to shoo him away, but are amazed to realise he is not German, but French. Henri, or ‘Young Digger’ as he comes to be called, has been living on his own or with various British squadrons since he was orphaned in France in 1915 and has somehow made his way to Germany. He is attracted to the Australian airmen by the smell of their food, and soon decides he will be happiest with them.

Whilst his story is sketchy, even his real name unclear, Young Digger is soon a much loved member of the Number 4 Squadron and, when they return to Australia he is determiend to go with them. The story of how he came to be adopted by air mechanic Tom Tovell and smuggled out of Germany, France and England before being welcomed into Australia is extraordinary.

Soldier Boy is a fictionalised account of Digger’s life and extraordinary journey. Previously published as a novel for children, this updated version is aimed at an adult audience. It will appeal to anyone with an interest in ar history, but also to those who like a heartwarming tale of love.

Soldier Boy, by Anthony Hill
Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN 9780670079292

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum, by Gordon Winch & Stephen Pym

Penelope looked down the mountain, but Percy was nowhere to be seen.
‘Where’s that Percy?’ she thought. ‘He should be coming back by now.’

Penelope the pygmy possum wakes from her winter hibernation, looking forward to the return of her mate, Percy, who has spent the winter with the other males away from the cold of the mountains. But there is a problem. Over the winter roadworkers have built a new road, and now it is blocking the path of the male possums. Luckily, Rick the Ranger has a solution, and soon the males are using a new tunnel under the road to get home. Penelope and Percy are reunited.

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum is a cute picture story book which fictionalises the real events surrounding the building of a ‘tunnel of love’ for male pygmy possums to safely leave and return from the Snowy Mountains during the colder months, while the female possums remain on the mountains and hibernate. The story gives young readers the chance to learn about the pygmy possum and the threats to its existence. Illustrations show realistic landscapes, roadworks and wildlife, though the possums are partly anthropomorphised for narrative purposes.

Educational and entertaining.

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum , by Gordon Winch & Stephen Pym
New Frontier, 2016
ISBN 9781925059595

War Child, by Annette Janic with Catherine McCullagh

‘What would you do if you found yourself caught up in another war?’ I asked my mother, Leni, when I was about 12 years old. ‘Commit suicide’ she replied, without batting an eyelid.
Her response was so immediate that I can still remember how much it shocked me. She did not hesitate, even for a second.

Magadelana (Leni) is born in pre-war Germany, an illegitimate child, spurned by her extended family and by the whole village in which she lives. Only her mother loves her, but their fight for survival is fraught with difficulties, with tough economic times made increasingly dire when war is declared. A young Leni has to leave school and help support her mother and younger brothers, but her employer is a sadistic rapist. The terrible misfortune that seems to plague her life continues long after the war ends, but in 1950 Leni, her Yugoslav husband and their young son arrive in Australia hoping for a better life.

War Child is the true story of a childhood which seems to awful to be true, and of the search by Leni’s daughter to uncover her mother’s story and the secrets she kept. Spanning over 100 years, and three continents, the story is gripping, uncomfortable and often sad, but it makes for compelling reading.

War Child, by Annette Janic with Catherine McCullagh
Big Sky Publishing, 2016
ISBN 9781925275599

Pandamonia, by Chris Owen & Chris Nixon

Come through. Look around. relax and explore.
Inside you will find there are creatures galore.
You’ll have a magnificent time at the zoo…
just don’t wake the panda whatever you do.

It’s a lovely day for visiting the zoo, but when the panda gets woken, it can set off all kinds of uproar, from jumpy hippos creating a hullabaloo, to shimmying emus, and even cha-chaing chinchillas.the resultant uproar can cause shenanigans that carry on far into the night. So, readers are beseeched, whatever they do they must not wake the panda.

Pandamonia is a lively, humour-filled picture book with rhyme that roms through the pages. Youngsters will love the silliness of the text and will have fun playing with the vocabulary, with glorious words like fandango, cavorting, shimmy and more. The illustrations, on colourful backgrounds, bring the animals to life with simple geometric shapes filled with life and humour.

Likely to be requested again and agian, Pandamonia will withstand repeated rereadings.

Pandamonia, by Chris Owen & Chris Nixon
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163339

The Toy Maker, by Liam Pieper

‘Let me tell you a story about my grandfather…My grandfather came to this country with nothing, but now, because of his hard work and sacrifice, I have everything. Grandpa was proud of his work, of every little toy that he made. That’s why he was so successful. There’s nothing more important than hard work and sacrifice…’

Adam Kulakov loves his life. He has plenty of money, thanks to inheriting his grandfather’s toy company, a beautiful wife and a son he adores. He has no shortage of mistresses, either. No matter that some of his ideas don’t turn out so well, or that he has trouble finding good staff who will stick around. His grandfather, Arkady, is also happy. After escaping Auschwitz at the end of World War Two, he was able to build a new, successful life for himself in Australia. Now he is retired, but Adam’s wife, Tess, on whom more and more responsibility for running the company falls, includes him in decision making. They have a close relationship.

But when Adam makes one mistake too many, the future of the toy company and of his marriage becomes increasingly rocky. And for Arkady, the horrors of the past are coming back to haunt him, too.

The Toymaker combines twin narratives of 1944 Poland and contemporary Australia so that the reader not only sees Arkady’s story unfold alongside the modern narrative, but also becomes aware of the contracts and similarities between the experiences and personalities of grandfather and grandson. It is a story of privilege, corruption and survival which is both absorbing and uncomfortable.

Compelling reading.

The Toymaker, by Liam Pieper
Penguin Books, 2016
ISBN 9780670079384

The Woman Next Door, by Liz Byrski

She attempts to get a grip on her voice. ‘It just seems such a big change, such a big thing to do.’
‘It is a big thing to do, but it isn’t something that’s undoable,’ he says. ‘A year, remember, that’s what we said. See how it goes for a year. It was your idea. You said it was what you wanted.’
‘But you…you do want it too…don’t you?’
‘I do – I wouldn’t have agreed otherwise.’

For years he women of Emerald Street have lived alongside each other. Much more than simply neighbours, they have seen children grow, careers flourish and relationships change. Now, though, things are changing. Helen and her husband Dennis have moved to a modern apartment near the river, seeking something. Polly has met a man who lives overseas, and is starting a long-distance relationship. Joyce and her husband Mac, still in love, want different things – in different places. And Stella, always flamnoyant, is becoming increasingly erratic in her behaviour.

The Woman Next Door is women’s fiction at its finest. The four friends each face a variety of challenges and changes, and their friendships, too, are at times challenged. Readers journey with each woman, with shifts in perspective allowing an intimate view of the highs and lows of a year which is filled with so many life changing moments.

Byrski has a knack for creating rich female characters and for making readers not only care about them but also feel that these are very real women.

The Woman Next Door, by Liz Byrski
Macmillan, 2016
ISBN 9781743534939