The Rainbow and Who Saw Turtle? by Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji

The shark with the glinting, pointy teeth saw Turtle.
The octopus with the dangly, stretchy tentacles saw Turtle.

As Turtle makes her way across the sea, the reader is asked ‘Who saw Turtle?’ giving an element of interaction to this delightful tale of a turtle travelling to lay her eggs. The illustrations, too, are interactive, encouraging both prediction and a close examination to see previous animals repeated.

Who Saw Turtle is beautiful picture book offering from Ros Moriarity, with indigenous artwork from the Balarinji studio. Together with The Rainbow, it offers both simple text and rich visuals, perfect for very young students and second language learners.

An important inclusion in both books is a back of book translation of the text into the Yanyuwa language, spoken by families in Borroloola, in the Northern Territory. Such use of traditional language is vital not just for the speakers of that language, but for promoting Australia-wide awareness of the existence and importance of the many languages of our first peoples.

In paperback format, this pair will be enjoyed for its simple, engaging text and rich, bright illustrations.

Who Saw Turtle? ISBN 9781760297800
The Rainbow, ISBN 9781760297794
both by Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji
Allen & Unwin, 2018

Dingo, by Claire Saxby & Tannya Harricks

Can you see her?
There – deep in the stretching shadows – a dingo.
Her pointed ears twitch.
Her tawny eyes flash in the low-slung sun.

It is dusk, and Dingo is awake, ready to hunt to feed her cubs. As she moves through the landscape, the reader learns about this dingo and, through her, the dingo species.

Dingo, part of the Nature Storybooks series from Walker Books, is a sumptuous picture book offering. The text is lyrical, pacing across the pages like Dingo paces across the landscape. The illustrations, in layered oil paintings, are rich and wild, matching the subject matter perfectly. Short factoids on each spread, in a different font, give the reader further detail about the species.

Perfect for young animal lovers to enjoy on their own, Dingo will also be a valuable classroom and library addition.

Dingo, by Claire Saxby & Tanya Harricks
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781925381283

In the Lamplight, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds

Bessie says the nurses have set to work at Harefield House, scrubbing floors, dragging beds and mattresses upstairs, unpacking bed linen and stamping it with their hospital mark.
The nurses are asking local women to read to the Australian soldiers. I wonder if I dare. Bessie says she’ll read to them if I will…

When war breaks out, fourteen year old Rose O’Reilly’s life changes. A local manor house is converted into a hospital for Australian soldiers, and soon Rosie is volunteering there, keeping the soldiers company and, eventually, allowed to help with their care. Rosie loves her job, but when she’s not busy, she worries about her brother, away fighting on the Western Front. Life in war-time England is not easy, but when a new Australian soldier arrives, Rose finds some happiness.

In the Lamplight is a satisfying complement to the Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, from the same author/illustrator pairing of Dianne Wolfer and Brian Simmons, again exploring Australian’s role in World War 1. This time the setting is England, with the main character an English girl, but with Australian soldiers being a key part of the story. As with the earlier books, the narrative uses a scrapbook like blend of diary entries from the perspective of the main character, photographs, newspaper clippings, and third person narrative, as well as the stunning black and white illustration work of Simmonds.

In sumptuous hard cover, this is a collector’s delight and will be adored by young and old alike.

In the Lamplight, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591224

Book of Colours, by Robyn Cadwallader

She lifts a hand towards the bundle, but lets it drop again. Anticipation is a strange creature. For nearly two years she has waited for this moment, and now it is here, she doesn’t want to unwrap the parcel. How long has she imagined the illuminators with brush and quill, bent at their desks day after day, choosing colour and gold leaf. How long has she waited to see their work. But now she doesn’t want to look inside.

When Mathilda orders a prayer book made, she imagines it as a thing of beauty, both a sacred object and a symbol of the status she and her husband will hold. But when it is delivered, almost two years later, much has changed. For the illuminators, too, life has changed. In their small shop in London, a team of five have worked on the illustrations, each with their own things to prove and their own reasons for being there. The creation of the book is as complex as their lives, and the life of the woman for whom it is intended.

The Book of Colours is a complex, well woven story of life in 14th century England. Set against the backdrop of real events, and with a strong cast of characters from all walks of life, the story alternates between the events in the months after the book is delivered, and those in the time it is being worked on in London. The richness and complexity of the illuminations in the book are echoed in the rich, complex lives of the characters, particularly Will, an illuminator with a troubled past, Gemma, the wife of the master illuminator whose shop Will works in, and the Lady Mathilda, for whom the book is destined. Gemma’s husband, John, their son and other minor characters are also presented as rounded, intriguing characters.

Like the precious book in the story, this is a book which will stay with the reader fora long time.

The Book of Colours, by Robyn Cadwallader
Foruthe Estate, an imprint of Harper Coolins, 2018
ISBN 9781460752210

Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner

I swallow hard, gritting my teeth. Millions of light-years from home, standing on the surface of an alien planet, it never truly hit me until now that the biggest thing I’d have to fear would be another human being.

Mia is alone on Gaia, a planet far from Earth. Her goal is to scavenge as much alien tech as she can to earn not just her backer’s approval but something far more important – enough money to buy her little sister’s freedom. Jules Addison is on Gaia too, but his goal is far more important, he thinks. He wants to study the long extinct alien civilisation who once lived here – in the hopes that what he learns might save humanity, and his father’s reputation. With very differing aims, neither is impressed when they meet – but it fast becomes apparent that they need each other if they are to survive the planet, let alone meet their personal goals.

Unearthed is a young adult space-opera blending sci-fi with action, romance and tomb-raiding scenes reminiscent of Indiana Jones, where the pair must cooperate to navigate action puzzles to stay alive and continue their quest.

The dual narrative allows readers to connect with the two main characters and to understand both their motivations and their back stories. Both are likeably flawed and although the story is slow in patches, it is increasingly absorbing, and readers will be left keen to read the sequel and find out what happens to Mia and Jules.

Unearthed, by Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760292157
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Ninja Kid: From Nerd to Ninja, by Anh Do

Grandma looked at the cake … and all the stuff on the ground. ‘You’ve got a long way to go before you know how to use your skills properly,’ she said, ‘and I’m here to help. But your mum’s right. There is no doubt about it, Nelson…you are a NINJA!

Nelson is am awkward uncool nerd, who lives in the junkyard with his mum, grandma and cousin. So when he wakes up on his tenth birthday and can suddenly do things he never could before, he is more than a little weirded out. When he learns that he is, in fact, a ninja – perhaps the last ninja on earth – he thinks there must be a mistake. He can’t even get his undies around the right way, let alone save the world.

From Nerd to Ninja is the first offering the new Ninja Kid series from much loved comedian and children’s author Anh Do. Combining humour with a fast moving story and an unlikely, though likable, hero, the story is sure to impress young readers who will keenly await the next installment.

From Nerd to Ninja, by Anh Do
Scholastic Australia, 2018
ISBN 9781742993263

The Dog With Seven Names, by Dianne Wolfer

On Christmas morning the Boss lifted me by the scruff of the neck and dumped me in an old kerosene tin. he carried me from the outside kennel and tucked me under a strange sparkly tree. When Elsie saw me, she danced and I smelt her joy.

When a tiny puppy is born on a remote cattle station, her survival is unlikely. The runt of the litter, and with a mother who dies soon after delivering her latest litter of pups, only the station owner’s daughter has any time for her. When Christmas comes, the pup is gifted to the daughter, Elsie, cementing their bond, and Princess gets a name.Girl and dog are inseparable until war arrives, and they are separated. In the years that follow the dog has adventures around the Pilbara region as war causes turmoil to all around her and, as she helps and bonds with a range of new people, she also acquires a series of new names. But she never forgets her Elsie, and dreams of being reunited with her.

The Dog With Seven Names is a warm, tender tale of one little dog, set against the historical events of Word War Two in rural Western Australia. Told from the perspective of the dog, the narrative is both childlike and perceptive, offering a unique insight into the impact of war and the bonds between dogs and humans.

Dianne Wolfer has a knack for delivering historical fiction in a form which at once palatable, well researched, and engaging, doesn’t disappoint with this warm-hearted, loveable book.

The Dog With Seven Names, by Dianne Wolfer
Random House Australia, 2018
ISBN 9780143787457

Small Spaces, by Sarah Epstein


We don’t pick and choose what to be afraid of. Our fears pick us.

When she was eight Tash Carmody witnessed her secret friend Sparrow abduct a child, Mallory Fisher. But nobody believed Tash, because no one else had ever met Sparrow and, over the years since, Tash has come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real and that some trauma  caused her to create her version of events. Mallory has been mute since the week that she went missing, and, after years of counselling and being sheltered by her increasingly frustrated mother, Tash is determined to put events behind her. But Mallory and her family are back in town and old memories are resurfacing. Tash becomes increasingly isolated from her few friends as she starts to wonder if Sparrow really does exist – or whether she herself is the dangerous one.

Small Spaces is a gripping psychological thriller for young adult readers. The mystery of what happened to Tash, and Tash’s involvement, will keep readers guessing. Tash’s first person narration is interspersed with scripts of recordings of her counselling sessions over the intervening years, allowing readers insight into Tash’s version of events at the time, and what has happened in the intervening years.

Creepy, gripping and unputdownable.

Small Spaces, by Sarah Epstein
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781921977381

Lucy’s Dawn, by Juliet Blair

Today has been the most important day of my life. I still don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
This is how it all began…

Lucy wants nothing more than to to work in the printing industry, like her father, but because she’s a girl, her dream seems unattainable. When an opportunity arises to work in Louisa Lawson’s Printery, she is delighted. She’ll be working in the office, but she hopes that, one day, she might be promoted. In the meantime, she loves working in the printery, where all the staff are female except for the owner’s son, the young poet Henry Lawson.

Lucy’s Dawn is the diary format story of a fictional girl set amidst the historical lives of Henry Lawson and his mother, and events in Sydney in 1889, particularly those surrounding the printer’s union and the rights of women to work in the printing industry.

Giving an insight into the lives and rights of women, and daily lives in Australia prior to Federation, the story will be of interest to young history enthusiasts.

Lucy’s Dawn , by Juliet Blair
NLA Publishing, 2018
ISBN 9780642279170

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris

Deep in the forest where sundrops spill
a bird sends seeds to the floor.

Over the seas, a bird drops a seeds which sprouts and, slowly, grows into a tree. When that tree is felled it becomes, in turn, part of a ship bearing convicts, then a frame for a weaving loom and, eventually, part of a lean-to. When the lean-to is abandoned the wood lies dormant until a crafter finds it and from it carves a wooden bird.

This beautiful story shows the journey of one tree, with the use of the bird at the beginning and end drawing an elegant circle which even young children will connect with. The repurposing of the wood from convict bunk to loom to building material to carving material connects history with the growing contemporary re-awakening of the importance of recycling and upcycling.

The poetic text is simple, and a delight to read aloud, and Harris’s illustrations make stunning use of light and perspective.

A delight for a home library as well as a useful classroom read.

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris
Black Dog, 2018
ISBN 9781925381122