The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler, by Lisa Shanahan

It struck Henry that perhaps he was waiting for the exact right moment to be daring and brave. The exact right moment where he felt no worry at all, not one tiny flicker. But what if that moment never came?

Henry Hoobler and his family are off on holiday – but Henry would rather stay home with his Nonna. There are lots of scray things about a camping holiday at the beach – sharks, spiders, snakes and blue-ringed octopi. But the thing he is most afraid is the new bike he got for Christmas, which is strapped to the trailer. Everybody wants him to ride it – but Henry is scared he’ll fall off.

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is a feel-good story about what it the meaning of bravery, friendship and family. As Henry tries to summon the courage to get on his bike, he navigates a new friendship with Cassie, who lives in the holiday park, and conquers other fears, including helping his little sister find a lost pony in the middle of the night. He also observes those around him learning new things and taking on challenges of their own.

With laughter, moments of poignancy, and lots of feel-good moments, The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler is a treat.

The Grand Genius Summer of Henry Hoobler, by Lisa Shanahan
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760293017

The Whole Caboodle, by Lisa Shanahan & Leila Rudge

Wakey-wakey peachy pear,
my fuzzy-wuzzy grizzly bear,
my tootsy-wootsy fizzyjig,
my hurdie-gurdie whirligig!

It’s walk time. A cute ginger and white dog wakes, eager for his morning walk. He wakes his bearded owner, excited at who they might meet in the park today. Will it be one itzy-bitzy Poodle, or two lovey-dovey Bolonoodles?

The Whole Caboodle is a gorgeous rhyming counting book, featuring not just the narrating dog, but a whole feast of dogs big and small, real and recreated. As the little dog and his owner prepare for their walk, each new dog is mimicked by something in the illustration. So, when one poodle is mentioned, there is a poodle teapot cosy as the owner eats breakfast, and the two Bolnoodles are represented by a pair of dog slippers. On the final spread, in the park, when they meet ‘the whole caboodle’, the real dogs are present, and readers will have fun spotting and counting them.

Youngsters will enjoy the rhyming text, with its creative use of words created for tongue-twisting fun, and the  illustrations with matching whimsical detail. This one will demand repeated rereadings.

The Whole Caboodle, by Lisa Shanahan & Leila Rudge
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743629321

Bear and Chook by the Sea, by Lisa Shanahan & Emma Quay

Bear and Chook were fast asleep when a breeze came sniffing and licking.
‘Chook,’ said Bear, sitting up, ‘that wind is as warm as honey toast.’
‘Go back to sleep,’ said Chook.
‘That’s a holiday breeze,’ said Bear.
‘No, no, no,’ muttered Chook, opening one eye. ‘The stars are still out.’
‘That’s a holiday sky,’ said Bear. ‘It’s time to go.’

Bear and Chook are the best of friends but that doesn’t mean they are completely alike. They have quite different outlooks on life. Bear is a ‘seize the day’ kind of friend, and Chook is a more cautious soul. Bear is off on an adventure, confident that despite not knowing where it is, he will find the sea. Chook is not so sure, but determined to stay close to her friend. And find the sea they do. It’s all the fun Bear predicts and then some, but not without its dangers. Emma’s illustrations in Chinagraph pencil and acrylic paint are warm and colourful, soft and full of joy.

Friendship is very important no matter the stage in life. Bear and Chook are ageless and childlike, all at once. Bear is enthusiastic, confident and outgoing. Chook is home-loving, cautious and a little apprehensive about new things. Their friendship bonds are strong and Chook stays close to brave Bear as he finds his way to the beach. There Chook relaxes and enjoys the beach, with and alongside her friend. Bear’s decision to have a swim provokes anxiety again in Chook who stays on shore. When Bear is tumbled by a wave, it is Chook’s turn to be brave and supportive. A lovely story, demonstrating the strength of the bond between two unlikely friends. Recommended for preschoolers through to junior primary.

Bear and Chook by the Sea

Bear and Chook by the Sea, Lisa Shanahan, ill Emma Quay.
Lothian 2009
ISBN: 9780734411112

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Sweetie May, by Lisa Shanahan

They rolled an old barrel full of diamonds up to the chest. Together they climbed up and slowly peeked over the rim. There on a bed of shimmering rose rubies, curled tight like a perfect pearl, was a tiny baby.

Captain Wildehide and Captain Leanbeam love to argue. They argue about anything and everything, from morning to night. The only thing they agree on is how much they both love treasure. So, when they find a cave filled with treasure they are delighted – until they discover that, as well as treasure, the cave has a baby in it. They can’t leave the baby alone in a cave – so they take her back to their ship.

Now they have something new to agree on – both captains love the baby. But still they argue – over who loves her most, over what needs to be done for her, and more. Perhaps they’ll never stop fighting – unless the baby can get them to stop.

Sweetie May is a gorgeously funny chapter book for early and middle primary aged readers. The two pirate captains are loveable, their fights silly and their discovery of a lone baby will intrigue and delight readers. Whilst Sweetie May doesn’t talk, her character is strong and endearing, aided by the line drawing illustrations by Kerry Millard.

Now part of the ABC kids fiction imprint, Sweetie May was first published in 1998, and was a CBCA Notable Book the following year.

Sweetie May (ABC Kids Fiction)

Sweetie May, by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Kerry Millard
ABC Kids Fiction, 2007

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

My Big Birkett, by Lisa Shanahan

Some people are more prone to birketts than others. Those sorts of people are also usually easily provoked. It’s like they have a San Andreas Fault running through their personalities and even the slightest thing can set them off.

Fourteen year old Gemma Stone vomits when she speaks in public. Just ask Mr Daihatsu. But when the gorgeous Nick asks her to come along to auditions for the school play, Gemma agrees. It helps take her mind off her sister’s weird wedding and her sister’s fiance’s even weirder family. Raven, of the infamous De Head family decides to audition too. Her mother tells her about the ‘dog poo’ test for love, a cake stall becomes something more and Gemma meets a family of boys all named for birds. In the small community of Buranderry the scene is being set for the biggest birkett of them all.

my big birkett is pitched at lower secondary readers although there is much in here for readers either side of the target readership. This novel is wonderfully funny and sad, over-the-top and very real. It’s about learning to tell the difference between what’s right and what just seems right. Along the way, Gemma discovers Shakespeare’s language and the world of themed weddings. Not to mention the power of a well-timed birkett.


This is Lisa Shanahan’s first book for older readers. Some of her other titles include Gordon’s Got a Snookie and Bear and Chook. my big birkett, by Lisa Shanahan
Allen & Unwin 2006
ISBN: 1741145872

Readers who enjoy this book might also enjoy:

The Slightly True Story of Cedar B Hartley, by Martine Murray
The Wanderer, by Sharon Creech
The Family Tree, by Jane Godwin

The Postman's Dog, by Lisa Shanahan

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Lisa Shanahan’s Gordon’s Got a Snookie was probably one of the funniest children’s books I’ve ever read (I still chuckle reading it to my children), so I looked forward to Shanahan and Harris‘s latest book The Postman’s Dog with considerable anticipation. The humour in The Postman’s Dogis a lot more muted than that of Gordon, and there are no laugh outloud moments (like gorilla nitpicking or hospitalised hyenas), however, the book makes up for it with its tender prose, and rich sense of community and humanity. The story follows gregarious postman Charlie, who loves meeting the people he delivers mail to each day. Part of his pleasure is sharing the stories he hears with his wife every afternoon, but when his wife dies, he stops being gregarious. The neighbours rally together and convince him to get a dog, but his dog, who is otherwise happy and charming, doesn’t like his postman outfit, and the barking is driving the neighbours wild.

The story is ideal for preschoolers and there is just enough conflict to keep the plot moving forward. Although the story is sad at the point of Charlie’s wife’s death, the way the community rallies around him is moving and warm. Wayne Harris’ digital illustrations convey the strong and different characters of the multicultural community that Charlie lives in, including Mrs Zielinski, Mr Tran, Francesca and Mr Kumaradeva. Between the pictures and the text there are a lot of absorbing sub-stories and opportunities for discussion including the gelato shop and deli, Mrs Zielinski’s opera, Mrs Montague‘s violin, Mr Tran’s tricky immigration journey, Francesca’s ballet classes, and lots and lots of dogs. Children will love identifying the different ones, and helping Charlie choose a dog at the pound.

Adults will appreciate the positive messages, the camaraderie, the opportunity to ham it up–barking with Charlie’s dog or pointing out the detail in each picture, and above all, the gentle poetry of Shanahan‘s narrative:

And before long,
Charlie felt hope tingle
across his skin
like soft, summer rain.

Although there are no nits in this book, there is plenty of food for thought. This is another fine book by Shanhan and Harris, full of drama, pathos, and a very subtle humour.

The Postman’s Dog (Hardcover)
by Lisa Shanahan, Wayne Harris (Illustrator)
Allen & Unwin
Hardcover: 32 pages, October 2005, ISBN: 1741142520, RRP$A22.95

This review first appeared on Preschool Enetertainment. It appears here with permission.

Gordon's Got a Snookie, by Lisa Shanahan

The animals in the zoo are so excited that Gordon is coming. Gordon is the new silverback gorilla being brought in from overseas to take care of the girls. Of course, the girls are more excited than anyone – they hope Gordon will be big and strong and hairy.

When Gordon arrives he looks to be all that they hoped for – until the young gorillas notice something funny. Gordon has a snookie! Now all the animals are scornful and highly amused – how can Gordon live up to his strong image if he needs a comforter? The girls are embarrassed to be seen with him.

Poor Gordon – left alone, the snookie becomes more and more important, until a young gorilla unwittingly offers a chance solution.

Gordon’s Got a Snookie is a hilarious story sure to appeal to children and to their adult readers. Shanahan’s text is a delightful blend of humour and gentle message about the acceptability of snookies, or blankies or other comforters. The illustrations of Wayne Harris perfectly complement the text, capturing the range of emotions from ethusiasm to loneliness with a delightful colour range and skillful portrayal of the characters’ facial expressions.

A delightful book!

Gordon’s Got a Snookie, by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Wayne Harris
Allen & Unwin, 2002