Sunday, 20 September 2020

written by Zanni Louise; art by Missy Turner (Five Mile, 2020) Humankind Series. ISBN: 978 1 92597 079 1 Hardback (unpaged): colour illustrations RRP: $19.99

Reviewed by Julie Thorndyke

Honesty is the first book in the new Human Kind series, offering children and their families a framework to talk about values, and the shared beliefs that underpin our lives.

Using relatable characters and scenarios, each book introduces and explores the importance of values, and gives kids the language to talk about and understand them.

A sturdy yellow hardback book with a round window in the front cover, the illustrations inside employ a colour palette reminiscent of vintage 1950s styles (harking back to a simpler time?) The five child characters: Jack, Lila, Mina, Li Wei, and Rosie are ethnically diverse and portrayed in cartoon-like pictures. Freckles the dog also plays a supporting role.

Discussion questions, notes for parents and carers, and advice from a child clinical psychologist complete the book.

Teacher notes can be found online at



Friday, 18 September 2020


Splash, Slither, Squawk!

Edited by Michele Bomford and Julie Thorndyke

Published by The Society of Women Writers NSW Inc., 2020.

Paperback, 140 pp; black and white illus.

ISBN  978-0-9808407-5-9     RRP  $20   (plus postage)

Contact: Michele Bomford

Wombats, platypus, turtles, magpies, koalas, goannas, cockatoos, bilbies, kangaroos, banksias, flannel flowers, bushfire, rain, ferns, snails, spiders, glow worms, pelicans, flying foxes, cicadas, lyrebirds, butterflies, possums, owls, kookaburras . . .


In this varied collection, poems and stories about bushfire and resilience, surprising encounters with native wildlife, information about the natural world, together with articles about endangered species are complemented with drawings by young artists living in NSW.


Text Box: 'Engaging young people in stories of our wildlife challenges them to become protectors of the world.’
 Susanne Gervay OAM
Enjoy nature writing by SWW NSW members and guests, including: Michele Bomford, Jacqui Brown, Kylie Day, Carolyn Eldridge-Alfonzetti, Beverley George, Susanne Gervay, Samantha Goyen, Libby Hathorn, Pippa Kay, Colleen Keating, Dorothy Keyworth, Hester Leung, Sophie Masson, Sema Musson, Mary Anne Napper, Liz Newton, Vanessa Proctor, Susan Ramage, Joanne Ruppin, Pamela Rushby, Margaret Ruckert, Rita Shaw, Pat Simmons, Carmel Summers, Christine Sykes, Julie Thorndyke and Decima Wraxall.

Wednesday, 16 September 2020

The Roman Gods, Emperor and Dormice

The Romans Gods, Emperors and Dormice written and illustrated by Marcia Williams (Walker Books) PB RRP $17.99 ISBN 978 1 406384048

 Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

 Marcia Williams is an author/illustrator whose retellings of history are both informative and entertaining. Her use of comic-strip style illustrations enhances the text as we journey through Ancient Rome along with Dormice.

 In this book, we start at the dawn of time when the world was just one big muddle. There was no day, nor night and the land, sea and sky swirled in one chaotic mass until one particular god decided to sort the mess out. All the other gods were happy with this, except for Prometheus who was lonely so he created human friends.


There are ten chapters of gods and goddesses that showcase the rise and fall of Ancient Rome. The reader is introduced to gods whose names they may have heard but don’t know the story behind. Such as Juno, Mars, Vulcan, Venus, Minerva, Apollo, Diana, Mercury, Vesta, Ceres, Neptune. We meet Romulus and Remus, the two brothers who founded Rome. They built two cities, one each on neighbouring hills. As the book unfolds, Rome grows into a vast empire stronger and bigger than any other until it becomes too big to manage for any one god. Many of the landmarks are still able to be visited today in Rome.

This terrific book explains Ancient Rome with fascinating facts and sensational stories in each chapter. It is a great read for middle grade children. The back of the book features ten terrific things you didn’t know about the Romans and there is a glossary that alphabetically explains all things Roman. This well- written book about the Romans is fascinating and there are more books in this series to seek out and read.

Monday, 14 September 2020

The Tindims of Rubbish Island

 The Tindims of Rubbish Island by Sally Gardner and Lydia Corry (HarperCollins)

ISBN 9781838935672 BP RRP $12.99

 Review by Nean McKenzie

 This imaginative and environmentally aware story is written and illustrated by an English mother and daughter team, published under the Head of Zeus imprint. The Tindims are tiny people who live on a mobile island and collect rubbish from the sea, thrown away by the Long Legs (humans). A bit like the Wombles, they find uses for the things they discover, but lately they have been overwhelmed by the amount of plastic in the ocean. Their ‘bottle mountain’ is now so high they are stuck in a cold part of the world and can’t see to sail to warmer climates to celebrate their annual Brightsea Festival. While the main character Skittle is initially excited by the snow, she, and her dog Pinch, need to come up with a solution to the plastic problem so they can return to their normal lives.

 The world of the Tindims is beautifully described by diagrams of the Tindims themselves and Rubbish Island, including the engine room, the underground fish hospital and the toothbrush library. The Tindims are quickly likeable: they are happy and sing often. Their world is fleshed out by details which include the fact that none of them can tell their lefts from their rights. Their motto is ‘Rubbish today is treasure tomorrow,’ and one of the Tindims, Ethel B Dina, has a saying, ‘My still and sparkling darling,’ after the water bottles they find in the sea. They’ve even got their own marine-sounding days of the week: Monkday, Tunaday, Winkleday, Turtleday, Floundersday, Sardineday and Sharkday.

 Included at the back of the book are activities showing how to make things from plastic bottles or toilet rolls and advice about littering on beaches. While The Tindims of Rubbish Island has a strong environmental message about the plastic in the sea, it is primarily a really fun story about an island of tiny creatures, that primary school children can really immerse themselves in. Three more Tindim books are on their way in 2021. 

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Funny Kid: Belly Flop


Funny Kid: Belly Flop by Matt Stanton (ABC Books) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN: 9780733340604

 Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

 Max Walburt does not like swimming. He doesn’t understand why he needs to pretend to be a fish. And he certainly does not want to participate in the swimming carnival. Helped by his friends – and, surprisingly, his archenemy, Abby Purcell – Max manages to get the carnival cancelled by ruining the public pool. But when he discovers Abby’s plan to make them all do the Maths Olympiad instead of the swimming carnival, Max convinces his teacher to hold the carnival in Tyson and Pip’s massive pool instead. Although Abby gets her just deserts, Max’s race ends up being a real bummer – in the funniest way possible.

 Aimed at kids aged seven and over, Funny Kid: Belly Flop is a laugh-a-minute riot from the opening page. Matt Stanton’s use of present tense throughout the book draws the reader right into the action, where butt jokes are more contagious than chicken pox. The swimming carnival setting is very familiar for youngsters, but Matt takes it up a notch by having Max pull a plethora of imaginative pranks that will make readers giggle and gasp in turn.

Like all Funny Kid books, this one features Matt’s iconic black-and-white illustrations on just about every spread. In addition to gently breaking up the text into bite-size chunks for new readers, these images add a layer of visual humour to the story. Lengthy dialogue exchanges are energised by the insertion of character illustrations and speech bubbles, ensuring that young eyes do not wander from the pages.

 Funny Kid: Belly Flop is sure to make a splash among kids who are keen to dive into a pool of humour. Like synchronised swimmers, the clever text and cartoon illustrations work together to create an entertaining spectacle that only gets better with every viewing.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn by Kate Gordon, UQP, ISBN 9780702262821 RRP $14.99

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

We meet Wonder Quinn sitting on the roof of Direleafe Hall accompanied by Hollowbeak a crow, her only companion and friend. Each year she waits for a girl to start at the school who will become her friend. She reflects on the many students who have come and gone but none who have ever seen or spoken to her. This year might be different as the last girl to arrive looks up to her lookout.

Mabel is small and frail but immediately sits next to Wonder then chats calmly in Ms Gallows classroom. The girls become firm friends and share happy times together despite the cruel bully Georgiana. Wonder has spent so many years reading books in the library and in her attic where she has found solace while waiting for a friend. The room also contains the old filing cabinet with the school archives holding the files of pupils and staff including Wonder’s mother.  Mabel and Wonder spend so much happy time together, but Mabel is ill and has a list of special things she wants to do. Wonder helps her achieve her dreams with her friend Hollowbeak always close by offering advice. 

This is a heartwarming and heart-breaking story, a fantasy fairytale of friendship. The story examines sadness and strength of children but with a touch of realism as the girls face the truth of their situations. The book states it is for 7 + years and would be a great option for strong readers who need more depth then normal junior readers. The font size and limited graphics provide good story indicators without patronizing the reader.  I enjoyed the story and will certainly recommend it. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

The Human Body Survival Guide

The Human Body Survival Guide by George Ivanoff (Puffin Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781760896744

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

On the cover of this hefty book are the words ‘Your body is really gross – but also pretty awesome!’ which best sums up its contents. Readers learn about the inside and outside of the human body including blood and guts, burps and farts. Everywhere we go, we’re shedding bits of ourselves. Skin. Hair. Nails. And our bodies are a breeding ground for germs, bacteria, fungus, lice and more. We secrete spit and snot and sweat…

Presented in black and white with red tags and break-outs, this book covers a wide range from the section ‘On the Outside’ (The Wrapping, Dead Stuff, Weird Stuff and Body Image Survival) to ‘Better Out than In’ (Weeing it Out, Pooping It Out, Hurling It Out, Gassing It Out, Oozing it Out and Cutting it Out) and more. An avatar introduces the contents and each section has a ‘Gross-O-Meter’ which measures from Completely Un-Gross to Totally Ultra Gross. 

One can imagine a young reader totally engaged in the fascinating information which is revealed throughout the book. Thus, you can find out about a tribe in Papua New Guinea, the Fore people, who used to eat the brain of the deceased at funerals. This led to the spread of a deadly disease called kuru. There’s so much more trivia in this book. For example, accompanying a tag which reads ‘Rainbow sweat’ is this fascinating information: ‘Some people have coloured sweat. It comes out either yellow, green, blue, brown, or black. This rare condition is call chromhidrosis.’ 

The Human Body Survival Guide takes the reader on a weird and wonderful journey, teaching just how amazing and complex one’s body is.

Accompanying the chapters is a glossary and further reading (books and websites). Without doubt readers (from 9+ years to adult) will spend many hours dipping into this engaging non-fiction book.