Australians At The Great War – 1914-1918, by Peter Burness

The rough and ready fighting spirit of the Australians had become refined by an experienced battle technique supported by staff work of the highest order. The Australians were probably the most effective troops employed in the war on either side.’ Major General John O’Ryan, US 27th Division.

Between 1914 and 1918, 250,000 Australians joined up to fight alongside soldiers from the Allied nations. 60, 000 of these men never came pack, and countless others were wounded. As Australia marks the one hundred year anniversaries of these terrible years, Australians at the Great War – 1914-1918 brings them to life with a stunning collection of photographs, paintings, diagrams and other images, along with commentary to help understand their significance.

There are pictures of destruction and misery, but also glimpses of quieter times, as well as maps, posters and more. This is an excellent visual resource, compiled by historian Peter Burness.

Australians at the Great War – 1914-1918, by Peter Burness
Murdoch Books, 2015
ISBN 9781743363782

Available from good bookstores and online.

New Boy, by Nick Earls

The car is still all snot and tears and noise when we get to the drop-off zone outside One Mile Creek State School.

As Mom’s door opens, Hansie’s screaming makes everyone look at us – students, parents, teachers, all arriving at this same precise inconvenient moment. This is not the perfect beginning to my first day.

I am supposed to look cooler than this.

Before he and his family moved to Australia, Herschelle used the internet to research what life would be like, and to learn Australian slang. But now that he’s here, Herschelle is discovering that it is very different than he expected: the food is strange, the other kids don’t understand his accent, and the other kids haven’t heard of most of the so-called Aussie slang he has learnt. At his last school, he was one of the cool kids, but here he’s quickly learning what it’s like to be different.

New Boy is a funny, moving story about the immigrant experience, about belonging and about bullying and racism. Primary aged readers will laugh at Herschelle’s problems with language and his surprise at how things are done in Australia, but they’ll also feel for him as he struggles to understand and to adapt.

Herschelle is a likeable narrator, and New Boy is a valuable tool for classroom reading as well as for private enjoyment.

New Boy, by Nick Earls
Puffin Books, 2015
ISBN 9780143308393

Available from good bookstores and online.

Lifespan of Starlight, by Thalia Kalkipsakis

Every gram of courage that I possess is going to be barely enough to make me step off the curb. An intake of air and I bail out, my toes gripping the soles of my boots for all I’m worth and the rest of me teetering over the edge. A car flashes past and I jump back. That was close.

Scout has to live her life unseen. She is an illegal, with no chip, hidden by her mother since birth. But neither her nor her mum want it to stay this way, so when she has a chance to take a chip, she does. Little does she know that the owner of the chip had a skill like no other: the ability to time travel. She finds herself sought out by two other teens to want to know how to time travel. Soon the three are experimenting with something both exhilarating and dangerous.

Lifespan of Starlight is a gripping dystopian novel for young adult readers, set in a future where identity and activities are closely monitored and controlled. Scout is smart and resourceful, but she isn’t perfect, which makes her all the more believable. Kalkipsakis’ version of time travel is very different from other time-travel stories, an originality which young readers will enjoy.

The first in a trilogy Lifespan of Starlight will appeal to young teen readers.

Lifespan of Starlight, by Thalia Kalkipsakis
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2015
ISBN 9781742978710

Available from good bookstores and online.

A Single Stone, by Meg McKinlay

First the fingertips and then the hand. Choose your angle wisely, girl; there’s no forgiveness in bone. Rotate the shoulder, let the head and hips follow … there.

The Mothers’ words echoed in Jena’s mind as she eased into the crevice, flattening herself against the rock. When she was through, she paused, waiting for the next girl. They were deep now, in the heart of the mountain. Around her, the earth pressed so tightly it was hard to tell where her body ended and the stone began.

Every girls dreams of being part of the line, the seven young girls chosen to crawl deep into the mountain to collect the precious mica which will ensure the village’s survival. Jena is the leader fo the line, and believes passionately in all the Mothers tell her. She doesn’t question, doesn’t doubt. Until a baby is born early, a girl dies and a single, impossible stone is found. These three seemingly separate incidents make Jena question all that she has believed, and bring back memories of losing her parents. COuld it be that all she has believed is wrong?

A Single Stone  is a  disarming yet beautiful novel set in a dystopian world. Jena’s village has been cut off from the outside world by a massive rockfall following an unnamed disaster which has also affected the world beyond their valley. With no way out, and no help from outside, the villagers have adapted to their isolation and to the vagaries of cold and lack of resources through evolving a society where everything revolves around the need for girls to collect the mica which can generate heat through cold winters.  Girls, especially fine boned girls, are precious. Men are to blame for the rockfall, and so lesser, and boy children undesirable, except to ensure the conception of more girls.

Jena is a strong lead character, who comes to question her own determination to do the work she was raised to do. McKinlay’s writing is superb: thoughtful, deliberate and breathtaking. Readers will feel squeezed by the mountain, shocked along with Jena at the discoveries she makes, and warmed by the hope of the resolution.


A Single Stone, by Meg McKinlay
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN 9781925081701

Available from good bookstores and online.

A Curry for Murray, by Kate Hunter & Lucia Masciullo

A Curry for MurrayMolly made…
slippery duck pasta for her brother’s headmaster,
spit-roasted geese for the local police,
and Singapore noodles for the Montague poodles!

Molly likes her neighbours Maureen and Murray, so when Maureen goes to hospital, Molly decides to make a curry for Murray. Word soon gets out about her wonderful culinary skills, and soon Molly is cooking and baking for friends near and far. But in the midst of her cooking chaos, Molly hurts herself – and Mum says ‘enough’. Finally, when Maureen gets home from hospital, it is Molly’s turn to receive a food gift.

A Curry for Murray is a gorgeous new picture book with lots of food-based silliness in both text and illustrations. Alongside the fun aspect, there is also lots of information about food, with visual representations of the ingredients in each dish, and a lovely demonstration of community spirit. The food offerings, as well as rhyming with the recipient names, come from a range of different cuisines, and some of the food is sent to faraway places, offering lots of opportunities for discussion.

The watercolour and pencil illustrations have touches of whimsy and lots of detail for youngsters to explore. From the cover through to the endpapers, this is a beautiful book to own and engage with.

A Curry for Murray, by Kate Hunter & Lucia Masciullo
UQP, 2015
ISBN 9780702253546

Available from good bookstores and online.

Thelma the Unicorn, by Aaron Blabey

Thelma the UnicornThelma felt a little sad,
In fact, she felt forlorn.
You see, she wished with all her heart
to be a unicorn.

Thelma the horse wants to be a unicorn, and with the help of a carefully placed carrot and an accident involving pink paint and glitter, her wish comes true. Soon she is famous, and travelling the world to the cheers of her adoring fans. But Thelma discovers that fame has its pitfalls, and finds he self wanting to be back home with her best friend Otis.

Thelma the Unicorn is a humorous, endearing story in rhyme about self acceptance, popularity and the pitfalls of the celebrity lifestyle. Thelma seems silly, but she learns from her mistakes, and Otis is a loyal friend. The acrylic illustrations are a wonderful complement to the text, with a diverse cast of characters all with big eyes and lots of toothy smiles. Thelma’s pink sparkly coat is contrasted with dark colours as well as use of white space.

The rhyming text rolls along with no scansion problem,s making it perfect for reading aloud, and for the repeated readings which it will no doubt demand from young readers.

Thelma the Unicorn, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743625804

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Memory Shed, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Sheds don’t move on their own. Did Grandma have a bad dream? Is she feeling a bit muddled? Just to keep her happy, I peer through the glass. All I can see are two old cane chairs sitting empty on the back verandah.
‘Don’t worry,’ I say. ‘I’m sure the shed hasn’t moved.’

Grandma wants to clean out er cluttered back shed, and Annie is helping her. But the shed seems to have other ideas. Every time Grandma plans the clean-up, the shed seems to resist. Annie helps Grandma uncover some of the treasures the shed holds – and the memories they bring back – and in the process, they realise that the shed just might be right.

The Memory Shed is a gently humorous story about family, about remembering the past, and about connections between generations. A contemporary story, it also explores the effects of the Great Depression, and life in bush camps.

Illustrations, by Craig Smith, are in grey scale, and appear on every spread. Comprehensive teaching notes are available on the Scholastic website.

Suitable for classroom use and for private reading by emergent readers.

The Memory Shed, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990347

Available from good bookstores and online.

This is Captain Cook, by Tania McCartney & Christina Booth

James was a very good sailor.
He could steer by the stars, make maps and read charts.
In fact, he was so good he joined the Royal Navy.

Englishman Captain James Cook played a big role in charting Australian and New Zealand coastlines, as well as exploring and having adventures around the globe. In This is Captain Cook, his story is told via a class play presented by Miss Batts’ class.

As Cook’s story is told in a simple, accessible narrative, illustrations show it being acted by students on a stage, in front of an audience of family members. Extra interest is added through speech bubbles and through side-stories happening with in the illustrations, such as escaped chickens running amok on stage, and interactions between audience members and the cast. The aforementioned chickens also feature on the end papers.

Useful for classroom study but also suitable for private reading, This is Captain Cook provides an entertaining introduction to the life of James Cook.

This is Captain Cook, by Tania McCartney & Christina Booth
National Library of Australia Publishing, 2015
ISBN 9780642278692

Available from good bookstores and online.

Harold and Grace, by Sean E Avery

The storm rushed, and howled, and splashed, and blew at the tiny tree, the little pond and the lonely leaf.

When it finally stopped, the lonely leaf was safe.

When a single caterpillar egg and a single frog egg survive a storm, an unlikely friendship is formed.  When Harold the tadpole and  Grace the caterpillar hatch from their eggs, they meet and, in spite of their obvious differences, become best friends. In the pond, Harold is teased by the fish who see that he is not the same as them. In the tree, Grace is shunned by the other insects because she is not the same as them.  But they lend each other support.

Eventually, though, Harold gets busy in the pond and forgets about Grace for a while. When he returns to see her, she is not there. Instead, there is a cocoon. Distraught, he uses the cocoon as a pillow, until one day a butterfly emerges and the pair are, after a brief misunderstanding, reunited.

Harold and Grace is a warm, funny tribute to friendship and diversity, which also explores the life cycles of frogs and butterflies, paralleled with the ebbs and flows of friendships. The illustrations use black ink and digital colours, with a palette rich in greens and purples, in natural tones that reflect the outdoor setting of the story. The whimsy of the characters and their surrounds is delightful, and the design of the book, in a smallish square hard cover with a felted embellishment, is adorable.

A beautiful offering.

Harold and Grace, by Sean E. Avery
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162295

Available from good bookstores and online.

My Holocaust Story: Hanna, by Goldie Alexander

Hanna (My Holocaust Story)Only this afternoon Papa had warned us of the German threat to Poland. Now the Luftwaffe’s bombs had succeeded in convincing us that everything was about to change.

Hanna and her family have a happy life in Warsaw – until the Nazis invade, and the family must run and hide. Their crime? Being Jewish. Suddenly they have nothing, and every day becomes a fight for survival. First in hiding in the loft of a farmhouse, and later in the ghetto, Hanna must use all her skill to keep herself alive.

Hanna is a moving fictional account of one girl’s Holocaust story. Hanna is, at the start of the story, a fairly normal child: she has friends, is close to her family, and worries about things like missing out on gymnastics training. But as the Nazi occupation forces her family into a radically different life, she grows and discovers new talents and new strength.

Hanna shares a terrible chapter in history with a young audience who may not be familiar with it, in a form which makes it accessible and movingly real.

My Holocaust Story: Hanna, by Goldie Alexander
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743629673

Available from good bookstores or online.