A Thousand Hugs from Daddy, by Anna Pignataro

In your arms it’s safe and snug,
you always give a thousand hugs.
And I’m as happy as can be-
one hug is not enough for me!

Starting at home and then out into the day a father and child go through the day playing, resting and even overcoming obstacles in the ford of bad weather – with hugs every step of the way.

While the text could be any pairing of adult and child, the illustrations, coupled with the use of ‘Daddy’ in the title, show this pair as a father and infant polar bear. Home is an igloo, and most of the book takes place outside against snowy backgrounds. The palette of mainly whites and greys is gently brightened with soft yellows of light and muted blue skies and snowflakes. This visual gentleness echoes the lyrical rhyming text, making it suitable for cuddle time or bed time.

A beautiful, tender celebration of father-child bonds.

A Thousand Hugs from Daddy, by AnnaPignataro
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781760276973

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

Headstarts, by Dr Cindy Pan & Vanessa Woods

Headstarts is full of summaries of current and recent research about children and parenting. There are tips on sleeping, nutrition, care solutions, behaviour management, nutrition, teaching maths, assessing when you need help (whether it be in maths, behaviour or co-existing with teenagers) and talking about sex…

‘It’s got to be-ee-ee-ee perfect …’ goes the popular eighties’ song where a woman sets out the conditions for all her future relationships. Good luck, honey!’
For career mums juggling the dual rules of worker and mother, being a perfectionist can be a recipe for stress, depression, conflict and lower overall satisfaction with themselves and life.
Of course there are lots of rewards (such as the thrill of achieving) that come from perfectionist behaviour, features of which might include being organised, hard-working and committed to your goals. But sometimes perfectionists are motivated by guilt, fear of failure, or fear of others’ disappointment or censure rather than the rewards of a job well done. It is when the fear of negative consequences is greater than the lure of positive ones that this form of perfectionism becomes less healthy, leading to decreased satisfaction and leaving the perfectionist vulnerable to dejection, shame, embarrassment and a generally low mood.

Headstarts: 100 Tips for Raising Clever, Confident, Creative Kids (Headstarts) is full of summaries of current and recent research about children and parenting. There are tips on sleeping, nutrition, care solutions, behaviour management, nutrition, teaching maths, assessing when you need help (whether it be in maths, behaviour or co-existing with teenagers) and talking about sex. Each is accompanied by information on the source of the information so if you want to, you can access original research. Much of the contents are around reassuring parents that they are normal, their children are normal and any challenges, behaviours or insecurities they have are shared by many other parents and children. Headstarts is practical, readable and reassuring.

Headstarts begins by suggesting that you not be too hard on yourself. Difficult when all around you there are family members, doctors, nurses, friends and passersby offering advice on what you should be doing. Headstarts doesn’t suggest you read every tip here and embrace it, in fact if you did, you’d be much more confused than ever. What it does do is present the findings of research, simplify it for the lay reader and say ‘Okay, now you’re informed, make the decisions that are right for you and your children.’ It also suggests you pick and choose what’s right for you and your child/children at the time, while reminding you that things may change. There is also a warning that current research may not match future research, just like what works for your first three-year-old might not work with your next three-year-old. Overall, it’s suggesting that you learn to listen to yourself, your child and to trust the way that you negotiate with each other. Recommended for parents and those considering becoming parents.

Headstarts: 100 Tips for Raising Clever, Confident, Creative Kids


Headstarts: 100 Tips for Raising Clever, Confident, Creative Kids, Dr Cindy Pan & Vanessa Woods
Allen & Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781741755749

100 Ways to Happy children, by Dr Timothy J. Sharp

As parents we know that nothing is more important to us than the happiness of our children. But how can we confidently teach them to find happiness when it’s often such a struggle to find it in our own lives?

This easy to read and digest volume is aimed, as the subtitle says, at ‘busy parents’. And, let’s face it – every parent seems to be a busy parent. Clinical psychologist Dr Timothy Sharp presents 100 realistic, achievable suggestions for raising happy, confident and balanced children. From setting goals, to recognising strengths and encouraging learning, there is nothing unpalatable or unrealistic on offer here. Instead, what is on offer is straightforward advice and reminders.

Each of the 100 ‘ways’ is presented succinctly, with entries ranging from half a page to two pages, and broken into categories including ways to build character, ways to ensure wellbeing and ways to make learning fun.

Parents may like to read the entire book cover to cover, but could also dip into it randomly, or just read one entry per day, allowing time to digest and enact. A wonderful resource for every parent.

100 Ways to Happy Children: A Guide for Busy Parents

100 Ways to Happy Children: A Guide for Busy Parents, by Dr Timothy J. Sharp
Penguin, 2009

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

Small Fry, by Susie Cameron & Katrina Crook

We wanted to make the day and what we do a little more fun-filled for our children and their friends. We decided that since they were so keen to help and be involved, particularly in the kitchen, that we would relax and go with it!

Difficulty, preparation time, cooking time are all ingredients of modern cookbooks. Small Fry adds a ‘mess factor’ rating from one to five. ‘Getting Started’ includes information from an Early Childhood Consultant and guidelines for age- and development-appropriate expectations. Chapters are grouped according to ‘Senses’, ‘Concepts’, ‘Everyday’ and more. There are suggestions about how to include children in shopping, unpacking and cleaning up. Recipes introduce children to textures, smells and tastes. ‘Extra Stuff’ provides extension and alternative activities to vary the kitchen experience.

Small Fry is a very attractive book with brightly coloured pages and wonderful photos of children and food. The recipes are mostly difficulty rated ‘one’ or ‘two’ with fish & chips and white bread rated as difficulty ‘three’ and pizza as ‘four’. But this is not just a recipe book. There are suggestions on how to make shopping enjoyable, some gardening tips, play dates, ideas to show children where food comes from and much more. Older children can explore foods that go well together. A section on parties includes food ideas, games and activities. This is much more than a cook book and will be enjoyed by parents, grandparents and anyone who enjoys being with small children (and of course the small children themselves!).

Small Fry – Inspiration for Cooking with Kids, by Susie Cameron & Katrina Crook
ABC Books 2006
ISBN 978073316654

Save Our Sleep, by Tizzie Hall

Everybody needs sleep – and lack of sleep can be both exhausting and demoralising. So, for new parents, the lack of sleep caused by their baby’s lack of a sleep routine can be a real problem, impacting on their joy at having a new addition to the family. Save Our Sleepis a guide for parents, aimed at helping their babies to be happy and well-rested – with the spin-off, of course, that if baby has plenty of sleep then so too will her parents.

Writer Tizzie Hall has worked with babies and parents for over fifteen years, helping them to develop customised sleep routines which have settled restless babies and saved the sanity of their parents. She now presents her techniques and experiences in book format. The book explains why babies need routines, how these routines can become adversely affected, and what to do about it. Hall also explains how to teach babies to settle themselves, and how the way parents respond to babies can effect how they learn to sleep.

This is a no-nonsense book. Hall doesn’t provide an easy-fix – she spells out the effort required to develop a sleep routine and to fix sleep problems. She also uses plenty of case studies to show how her advice works in action. Parnets will find plenty of good, practical advice, and, hopefully, they key to a good night’s sleep for all.

Save Our Sleep, by Tizzie Hall
Macmillan, 2006

Outdoor Kids, by Jamie Durie

Most parents can remember the fun they had playing outdoors when they were children–climbing trees, building cubbies, getting dirty. Unfortunately, the computer age and our ever-increasing busyness mean that today many children are missing out on the fun and adventure of backyard play. In Outdoor Kidshorticulturalist and television personality Jamie Durie presents a practical guide to getting kids outside and having fun.

This colourful offering is packed with commonsense, achievable activities for kids to do on their own or with parents. There is practical information about gardening, covering subjects such as soil, compost, mulch, weeding and pruning, and an exploration of the seasons and what happens in the garden during each. The majority of the book is devoted to presenting simple activities aimed at kids (and their parents) having fun in the garden – from building a cubby house from a cardboard box, to growing vegetables and observing insects and other wildlife.

The text is accessible, with down to earth language and the use of lists, and is complemented by hundreds of gorgeous photographs, illustrating projects and, more importantly, showing kids and adults enjoying being outdoors. There is a strong message of conservation and caring for the environment, giving the book an educational element which is realistic rather than didactic.

This is a superb guide.

Outdoor Kids, by Jamie Durie
Jamie Durie Publishing, 2005

Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy, by Andy Griffiths, Jim Thomson & Sophie Blackmore

The name Andy Griffiths is most commonly linked with funny books for children, and rightly so. However, his latest book is aimed firmly at adults. That said, there is much here which is trademark Griffiths, most notably his humour.

Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy is a collaboration between Griffiths, Jim Thomson, a former athlete and fitness instructor, and Sophie Blackmore, a dietician. Filled with practical information and advice, what really makes this book stand out is its use of a fictionalised case study, written by Griffiths.

Jack, an ordinary Australian boy, shares his life with us in a humorous first-person narration, which holds some very real messages and warnings. Overweight, always tired, hooked on television and computer games, Jack’s lifestyle is causing him problems. When his father, on whom many of his habits are modelled, has a health scare, the whole family struggles to make changes.

Each chapter of Jack’s tale is complemented with discussion of real-life facts, and action strategies for recognising the need for change and enacting that change. The advice is easy to follow, the strategies simple. There are no fad diets, no unattainable regimes and no preaching.

This is a book which every Australian parent should read. Kids, too, would enjoy the fictional story and, importantly, learn from it. Read aloud in class, it could form an excellent basis for health and nutrition lessons and a springboard for classroom discussion.


Fast Food and No Play Make Jack a Fat Boy, by Andy Griffiths, Jim Thomson & Sophie Blackmore
Pan, 2005

Springboard to Learning Through Play

It seems hardly a day goes by without a new learning programme, educational toy, or multimedia product being launched, encouraging parents to spend sometimes exorbitant sums to help their child learn. It is, then, refreshing, to see parents being encouraged to help their children learn through play, with a multitude of no-cost, as well as some low-cost activities.

In Springboard to Learning Through Play, author and educator Kerrie Shanahan provides parents with an insight into how children play and, importantly, how they learn through play. She provides a wealth of suggestions to help extend children’s informal learning in the years before formal education.

There are pages of suggestions, information boxes which clearly explain how they help your child, short-cut tips and more.

Springboard to Learning would be an excellent gift for a first-time mother, but has plenty to offer all mothers, no matter how experienced.

Springboard To Learning Through Play, by Kerrie Shanahan
Ibis Publishing, 2005

Buying for Baby, by Melissa Rogerson

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

Useful for anyone preparing for the arrival of a baby, but especially for first time parents, this book is a simple guide to what is and isn’t needed.

Including pregnancy itself, the book covers small and large items and gives useful tips on choosing particular ones. No specific brand information is given, but questions are asked so parents can find the item appropriate to their own situation.

The book is a useful reminder for parents in subsequent pregnancies, too, and makes a handy reference for grandparents and people with lots of potential parents as friends.

Divided into chapters according to parts of life, such as traveling, sleeping, bathing and feeding, the book goes into detail about the possible purchases facing new parents. Each chapter ends with a table to summarise the relevant items; the table separates the items into ‘will need’, ‘will probably need’, ‘might want’, ‘unlikely to need’ and ‘later might need.’

Rogerson has based the book on her own experiences, which are scattered through the book, as well as research and discussions with other parents. She quotes real life parents throughout; sometimes the quotes are showing opposite sides of an issue, too, so readers can make their own judgements. Her stated opinions are supported by her reasons, and occasionally by links to reputable sites such as kidsafe and sidsandkids.

The book itself is easy to read and comprehensive; there are ideas in there that many parents would probably forget to mention to their pregnant friends. It can be read from start to finish, or just referred to as required, and even carried around as a reference on shopping trips. Also included are suggested shopping lists so the parents-to-be can plan before leaving the house and avoid being bewildered at the choices in the shops.

Buying for Baby: A guide for parents-to-be, By Melissa Rogerson, Illustrations by Dave Owen
The Baby Shopper, 2003