Little Lunch Triple the Trouble by Danny Katz ill Mitch Vane

The Body Bus
A truck was parked in the playground.
It was parked behind a portable classroom.
On the side of the truck was a sign. The sign said “Body Bus”.

The Little Lunch crew: Melanie, Rory, Tamara, Battie, Debra-Jo and Atticus are back with three adventures in the classroom and the playground. The Body Bus has the six classmates trying to work out why the Body Bus is in the school yard. In The Band, it rains and Mrs Gonsha races out to rescue a school jumper. She leaves Rory in charge of the class while she dries off, and the classroom transforms then transforms again. In the final story, Kiss Chasey Oval, sees a revival of the game half the class seem to love, and the other half would rather avoid. There are illustrations on every opening.

School is a place for learning, but the learning doesn’t all happen in the classroom, or in scheduled lessons. The six characters in this series have individual strengths and challenges, worries and confidences. Together they represent a broad range of personalities likely to appear in any classroom. Young readers will recognise themselves, their friends and their dilemmas. Originally released as individual stories, Triple the Trouble presents three complete adventures in the same book. Funny and real, the stories in the Little Lunch series will appeal to newly independent readers keen to see themselves reflected in their reading.

Little Lunch, Triple the Trouble, by Danny Katz ill Mitch Vane Black Dog Books 2017 ISBN: 9781925381825

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Little Lunch: Triple the Treats, by Danny Katz & Mitch Vane

Rory ran all the way to the school gate and pressed his face against the wire fence so hard he got crisscross marks on his nose.
He was about to do the unthinkable, he was ready to do the impossible. Rory was about to go …
Out of bounds.

Rory is always forgetting his playlunch, and nobody has any food to share with him – so he has a great idea. He’ll sneak over to the shop and get some hot chips. Not everybody agrees that it’s a good plan – and if Mrs Gonsha finds out he’ll be in big trouble!

The Milk Bar is one of three funny stories that make up Little Lunch: Triple the Treats . The Little Lunch stories have amused young readers for several years, but now they have also been made into a television series and the stories in Triple the Treats are based on episodes of the show.

The stories are humorous, fast moving (each takes place within a single recess break) and well woven, with the characters both diverse and likeable. Black and white illustrations by Mitch Vane are complemented by still photos from the television series.

Lots of fun.

Triple the Treats , by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925126907

Danny Best: Full On, by Jen Storer & Mitch Vane (ill.) creep across the grass like a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE Secret Agent. I am silent. I leave no trail.
I pick up a stone and hurl it at the chook shed. The stone hits the tin rook with a CLANG and the chooks SQUAWK.
That’ll trick Fab.

Danny Best and his best mate Fab are playing cops and robbers. Danny is the robber, and his job is to get away from Fab for long enough to steal the treasure. But hiding under the house is a bit tricky, and policeman Fab has got back-up in the form of their other friends.

“Cops and Robbers” is one of five short stories featuring Danny and his friends in Danny Best: Full on, the first book in a new series. Danny doesn’t just think he’s the best – he knows it. And most of his adventures feature races or competitions of some sort, including obstacle courses and child-built race circuits.

Danny is a little bit full of himself (aren’t most 8 and three quarter year olds?) but is able to laugh at himself when things go wrong, and his friends have his measure. The stories are fast paced and humorous and feature cartoon-style illustrations, maps and more, including humorous quizzes after each story.

Lots to like here for primary aged readers.

Danny Best: Full on, by Jen Storer, illustrated by Mitch Vane
ABC Books, 2015
ISBN 9780733333330

Little Lunch: The Off-Limits Fence by Danny Katz ill Mitch Vane

Amba was sitting beside Battie on the bench that goes in a circle around the big old tree. She said, ‘Hey Battie, did you hear what happened this morning?’

Battie was chewing on a chewy muesli bar. He had to take a big chewy blob out of his mouth and hold it in his hand so he could talk.

‘No, Amba, what happened this morning?’

‘Well,’ said Amba, ‘Max and Elsa had to go home from school early. Their dad came and picked them up from the front office and nobody knows why.’

Amba was sitting beside Battie on the bench that goes in a circle around the big old tree. She said, ‘Hey Battie, did you hear what happened this morning?’

Battie was chewing on a chewy muesli bar. He had to take a big chewy blob out of his mouth and hold it in his hand so he could talk.

‘No, Amba, what happened this morning?’

‘Well,’ said Amba, ‘Max and Elsa had to go home from school early. Their dad came and picked them up from the front office and nobody knows why.

Set in a primary school, ‘Little Lunch: The Off-Limits Fence’ is a collection of three short stories. In the first, ‘The Bench that goes in a Circle around the Big Tree’ offers a ‘Telegraph’ story about why two of their friends, Elsa and Max had to go home early. The explanations become wilder and wilder until someone realises they actually know the real story. It doesn’t stop the rumours though. The second story ‘The Equipment Shed’ offers a look at the opportunities offered by free play and the third ‘The Off-Limits Fence’ is narrated and acted out by a single child playing all sides of his football game, including that of the umpire. Black and white illustrations appear on every opening. There is a contents page and named character images.

The Off-Limits Fence is hilarious! Each story is entirely believable while being totally wild. It’s as if Katz and Vane peeked through a hole in a fence at a primary school. Every teacher, every parent, everyone who has ever had a chance to observe children at play will recognise the truth of these stories. Each story is short but rich in detail (including the gross bits). Readers of all ages will chuckle at the absurdity of the observations and language. Recommended for newly independent readers and anyone wanting a chuckle.

Little Lunch: The Off-Limits Fence, Danny Katz ill Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books 2015 ISBN: 9781742032375

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Belinda the Ninja Ballerina by Candida Baker ill Mitch Vane

Belinda didn’t want to go to ballet school.

‘You’ll enjoy it,’ her mother said.

‘I won’t,’ Belinda said. ‘I want to be a ninja.’

Belinda didn’t want to go to ballet school. Belinda, the Ninja Ballerina

‘You’ll enjoy it,’ her mother said.

‘I won’t,’ Belinda said. ‘I want to be a ninja.’

Belinda is very clear. She wants to be a ninja. She says it before her mother signs her up to do ballet classes with her very balletic cousin Millie. She tells her teacher, Miss Kate, when they are warming up on the barre and showing what they can do. She continues to tell her mother and her teacher, but neither seem to really believe her, even when planning and practice begin for their end-of-term concert. So she says it again, loudly. Miss Kate listens this time and finds the perfect role for Belinda. Her new role keeps her involved in the concert but caters for her particular interests and skills. Illustrations are ink and water colour set in white space.

Belinda’s mother is convinced Belinda will enjoy ballet classes with her cousin despite her stated preference to be a ninja. Miss Kate does her best to teach Belinda about ballet, but while it’s perfect for her cousin Millie, ballet is not the activity for Belinda. Belinda, the Ninja Ballerina is a gently humourous story about a determined young girl who will not fit into the mould expected of her. It’s also a story about the need for, and ability of teachers, to accommodate the different needs/skills of their charges. Belinda’s persistence and self-belief will reassure children who find they don’t necessarily fit mainstream programs/activities. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Belinda, the Ninja Ballerina, Candida Baker ill Mitch Vane Ford Street Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925272048

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship, by Jessica Green

Scratch was a ship’s cat. He had found Mrs Captain’s diamonds and he’d found his Paa. But instead of being happy, he was sad and frightened. Paa and Mrs Captain had sailed away, leaving Scratch alone on a tiny island in the middle of the ocean.
Scratch prowled along the beach.
He hoped his friends would come back for him. But all night long, the only sound he heard was swishing waves.
Just as the sun rose, Scratch heard voices. He pricked up his ears.

Scratch has had many adventures in his life as a ship’s cat. In Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship, Scratch hitches a ride in a new ship, hoping to find his way back to his friends. The Captain is happy to have him on board, but others are not so excited. Scratch and a thin man called Sir Peter Petall seem to get off to a rough start. Sir Peter is keen to find new animals and plants, and to name them all after himself. Scratch tries to be helpful but is dismayed to find an unusual animal called Toopo, locked up in a cage on deck. Scratch spies a ghost ship and tries to warn the sailors, but all he seems to do is get into one scrape after another. By the time the Captain and others see the ghost ship, the petulant Sir Peter is ready to pitch Scratch overboard.

Scratch is a curious and sometimes misunderstood cat. And if Sir Peter has his way, the little cat is going to need all of his nine lives to survive. Scratch tries to talk to the humans on the ship, but all they hear is miaow. He can, however, understand what they are saying and he can also talk to Toopo, the other animal on board. The captain and crew welcome Scratch aboard but are prone to superstition. Sir Peter’s search for new plants and animals seems motivated by self-promotion and a need to best his father. There are loose associations with the voyages of Captain Cook and the discoveries of Joseph Banks, and these provide opportunities for discussion beyond the adventure. Young readers will enjoy Scratch’s escapades.

Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship, Jessica Green ill Mitch Vane
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541070

Scratch Kitten and the Ghost Ship (Scratch Kitten)

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This bokc an be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Big Stories from Little Lunch, by Danny Katz

Mrs Gonsha has a big bum.
It’s a huge bum. Her bum is so big and wobbly, it looks like a gigantic beanbag made out of porridge.
Whenever Mrs Gonsha goes walking around the school, her bum wobbles and jiggles and wiggles and bobbles – and when she stops walking, her bum keeps wobbling and jiggling and wiggling and bobbling for a bit longer.
One day Mrs Gonsha was walking around the school with her big bum wobbling and bobbling, wiggling and jiggling. All the kids were playing on the slide, going up and down, up and down.
Mrs Gonsha came over and said, ‘Hey kids, that looks like fun, can I have a go?’

Big Stories from Little Lunch is a collection of the five ‘Little Lunch’ titles from Danny Katz and illustrated by Mitch Vane. Each of the individual titles comprised 3 stories. All stories feature the same children although different children take the lead role. Their teacher, Mrs Gonsha, appears in some of the stories, and the principal is mentioned but unseen. Each story occurs during ‘little lunch’, or recess, in a school yard. Characters range from show offs to fairy-artists, from naughty to nice, as seen in most school yards. There’s Manny with his amazing little lunch packs, Rory who has his own special chair in the principal’s office and Atticus who needs his glasses. Text is spare and there are illustrations on most pages.

Big Stories from Little Lunch is off-beat, ordinary, gross and spectacular…often all in the same story. Stories are short and ideal for the newly confident reader wanting to transition from picture books but not yet ready for chapter book. Each story deals lightheartedly and humourously with the wonderful ordinariness of the playground. Children will recognise themselves and their playmates and the things that happen in the playground. All manner of adventures happen in the 15 minutes of little lunch, and all are wrapped up neatly and satisfactorily by the time the school bell rings. Mitch Vane’s pen and ink drawings set the tone for these funny tales. Recommended for lower primary.

Big Stories from Little Lunch , Danny Katz, ill Mitch Vane
black dog books, 2009
ISBN: 9781742031071

Big Stories from Little Lunch (Little Lunch S.)

reviewed by Claire Saxby, children’s writer

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Jasper McFlea Will Not Eat His Tea, by Lee Fox & Mitch Vane

Jasper McFlea will NOT eat his tea.
His twin sister, Ginger, eats all she can see,
a soup made from parsnips and spinach and peas,
then says when she’s finished,
‘I’d like some more please.’
But Jasper McFlea will NOT eat his tea.

Jasper McFlea is a fussy eater. He rejects most foods, based on smell or appearance and for no apparent reason at all. He won’t eat his tea, neither will he eat his dinner, or any other meal. His excuses are many and varied, his refusal absolute. The only one pleased by all of this is the family dog, Buffy, recipient of all Jasper’s rejected food. Jasper’s family are at a loss to know what to do. Jasper continues to refuse almost every food until his parents have had enough. Something has to change. A canny solution is needed if Jasper is to star on the field at cricket. When a way out is offered, the family hold their breath to see Jasper’s response. The solution is in his hands alone. Mitch Vane has used black outlines and broad, bright watercolour strokes to sympathetically convey the emotions of all family members as they seek a solution to Jasper’s intractability.

Jasper McFlea Will Not Eat His Tea presents a scenario familiar in many households – dinnertime as battlefield. Parents reading this story will recognise many of the strategies they have employed in encouraging children to eat a variety of nutritious food. Children however will read a different story. They will enjoy the rhythm and rhyme of the words and the rollicking text as it moves around the page. They can also follow the visual stories of Jasper and the various family members. For example, Ginger, his sister, has plenty of energy, providing a contrast with Jasper’s increasing lethargy. Her advice that this food refusal will ‘end in disaster’ reinforce their parents’ concerns. Buffy the dog can be seen doing some growing of his own. Good fun. Recommended for 4-7 yo.

Jasper McFlea Will Not Eat His Tea

Jasper McFlea Will Not Eat His Tea, Lee Fox ill Mitch Vane
Lothian 2009
ISBN: HB 9780734410627 PB 9780734410993

Oom Pah Pah, by Cecily Matthews

Guess what?’ Rosie cried. ‘I’ve been picked for the school band. I’m going to get an instrument.’ she flapped a note at her mother. She danced around the kitchen. ‘It says there’s going to be a meeting. You and Dad need to go and hear all about it. So do I!’

Rosie is very excited when she is chosen to join the junior school band. She fancies herself a flautist and dreams about being the best flautist in the world. She’s prepared to practice every day. But at band practice, Mrs Thomas hands her a tuba, because Rosie is tall and has long arms and fingers. Rosie decides she wants to be the best tuba player in the world. But there are a few details to sort out first. She needs to work out how to get the tuba to and from school for band practice. Rosie must convince her brother Michael that she doesn’t sound like a ‘sick elephant’. Then a new boy starts at school. Ryan is taller than Rosie, and he wants to join the band too. Rosie is worried that her career as a tuba player will be over before it’s even begun.


Rosie is a determined and enthusiastic character, happily adapting to learning a different instrument than she’d imagined. She works hard to discover a solution to getting the tuba to school and only falters when it seems she might not get to play it after all. Her enthusiasm, anxiety and diligence are nicely balanced in this realistic dilemma. Teachers and family, even siblings, offer to help her out, but this heroine finds her own solution. Oom Pah Pah! is realistic about the commitment required to be a band member and the challenges faced by those who play some of the larger instruments. It also sends clear and positive messages about reward-for-effort and the joy that playing in a band can bring. Recommended for lower-mid primary readers.


This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.


Oom Pah Pah! (ABC Kids Fiction)


Oom Pah Pah! Cecily Matthews & Mitch Vane
ABC Books 2007
ISBN: 9780733320682

A Little Election, by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane

Rory wanted to be the Prime Minister.
He thought it would be really cool because then he could do anything he wanted. So one day at lunchtime, Rory decided to become Prime Minister – even though he was just a kid.

From the author and illustrator team that created the popular Little Lunch series, comes this delightfully irreverent and very clever picture book which takes a look at the election process through the eyes of children.

When Rory decides he wants to be the Prime Minister, his wise teacher, Mrs Gonsha, explains that he needs to be elected. Debra-Jo Woo decides she wants to be the Prime Minister, too, and soon the class are having an election, complete with campaigning, media interviews and outrageous promises.

Whilst this is highly entertaining, it is also a useful exploration of the election process in terms which children can understand and would be a helpful classroom tool during the forthcoming federal election. Danny Katz uses deceptively simple language which is accessible to kids, and Mitch Vane’s ink line drawings, with splashes of colour, are filled with humour.

Top votes.

A Little Election, by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2007