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How strange it all was. A bird in his hands, a balloon on his roof.
Yet things felt more real here, than less.

Matthew is about to have the adventure of his life when he meets Lewis Carmichael, a black crow with a broken wing who can talk. Lewis invites Matthew on a trip to the North Pole and together they ride Boreas the North Wind in a colourful hot air balloon for six thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two nautical miles all the way to the Arctic.

Matthew is a quiet boy, lacking in confidence, slow at school and without friends. He thinks his parents need another child, someone who was more what they wanted. Matthew escapes his worries reading books about the Arctic, a frozen land of polar bears, reindeer, snow geese and Arctic Wolves. A place full of space; secret and wild.

Visiting the North Pole is Matthew’s dream and for the first time Matthew has a friend with Lewis.

Throughout their journey Lewis is by Matthew’s side encouraging, challenging and believing in him as Matthew learns to fly the balloon, treks across the ice and climbs a snowy peak to see the icy white world of his dreams. As they face challenges along the way, Matthew’s confidence, courage and resourcefulness grow alongside the reassuring soundtrack of Lewis’ song.

In all the world, in all the world,
Never did I see, never did I see.
In all the lands, in all the lands
Just one boy, one boy.
This boy. This boy.

The Song of Lewis Carmichael by Sophie Laguna with its intriguing title and magical front cover, is a heartwarming voyage of discovery and a joy to read. Marc McBride’s realistic line drawings in Arctic blue immerse you in the story and vividly bring it to to life. Marc's double page illustration of Aurora Borealis is breathtaking! A story of many layers that will linger with you beyond the last page.

Everyone deserves a friend like Lewis Carmichael.

Read Chapter One HERE

Happy reading!





Teacher notes

If you're an animal lover then Devils in Danger by Samantha Wheeler is the book for you.

What could be making blood-curdling, screechy screams in the dead of night and leaving mysterious paw prints in Killarney's yard? 

Curiosity gets the better of Killarney. When she investigates the loose floorboards in the kitchen, Killarney finds recently missing items of clothing. With help from April a wildlife zoologist, they discover the culprit is a recently released wild Tasmanian devil called Fern who is denning under the house with her two imps. 

Killarney wants to protect Fern and give her little family a safe place to live, but not everyone at Dodges Ferry is happy about Tasmanian devils in their community. Killarney, struggles with reading and writing at school, but is encouraged by April to keep a journal about her precious visitors. Killarney even begins researching Tasmanian devils and soon knows she has to do something to protect this endangered species losing its natural habitat and being forced to live closer to humans. 

I thought of our little devil, her fur shining and whiskers twitching as she pottered around our backyard. She didn't deserve all the rumours. The angry notes. The nastiness.

How can Killarney convince her town that Tasmanian devils are worth saving? They might look fierce and have powerful jaws, but Tasmanian devils aren't dangerous. They are quite shy and can be beneficial to the community. Killarney will need perseverance and ingenuity to change the negative views of some her friends and her mum's clients. 

"When people care about about something, really care, then they're much more likely to help."

After reading Devils in Danger you will find Killarney's Scientific Journal at the back filled with interesting facts, useful websites and ways to help our Tasmanian devils.

Thank you for the copy of this book to review UQP

Samantha has also written Turtle Trackers and Wombat Warriors

Happy reading!  

Teacher notes


The Ballad of Melodie Rose is a quiet story of connectedness filled with magic, memories and mystery, wrapped in the warm glow of sunrise and sprinkled with stardust.

Melodie Rose is abandoned on the doorstep of Direleafe Hall with a note pinned to her coat, a broken heart and no memory. When Melodie meets the school’s resident ghosts, Lucy, Florence and Nell, she thinks she must be a ghost too.

As Direleafe Hall begins to feel like home, Melodie learns of the mysterious Lady in White who plans to buy and flatten the boarding school to build a resort. Even though it is dilapidated, Direleafe Hall is filled with joy and history and memories and Melodie knows she must save the school for her grandmother and the girls both real and ghostly, but also in case her mother returns. Will she be brave enough to stand up to the Lady in White?

Melodie, Hollowbeak Crow and the girls devise a list of plans to show the Lady in White the true beauty of Direleafe Hall beyond its dust and cobwebs and cracks in walls like sorrows. But in the end it will take someone with courage, empathy and kindness to unlock the Lady in White's hardened heart.

The Ballad of Melodie Rose is about belonging, being brave and being seen and about knowing when to hold on and when to let go. It follows The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn. Both of these heartfelt books need to be read slowly to savour Kate Gordon’s poetic writing and the exquisite imagery she creates.

I’m excited that Kate is writing the third book The Calling of Jackdaw Hollow to be published in March 2022. I hope it reveals even more about my favourite character, the mysterious Hollowbeak.

Thank you for the copy of this book to review UQP.

Happy reading!

Girl of the Southern Sea is a story of courage, resilience and hope.

Fourteen year old Nia lives in the slums of Jakarta in Indonesia and faces challenges beyond her years as she raises her little brother Rudi and helps her father run their fried banana cart. Nia is a clever student and talented storyteller who writes amazing stories about the mythological Princess Dewi Kadita, Princess of the Southern Sea. Nia's dream is to become a writer. She desperately wants to go to high school, but her family barely has enough money for food and Nia is forced to leave school.

When Nia survives a bus accident unharmed, some people say she is  blessed with good-luck magic. As everyone seeks some of Nia's good-luck magic, her father's business thrives, but Nia's life is endangered when people begin questioning the magic.

Nia's dream is threatened when her father makes a secret promise that will change the direction of her life. With courage and determination and some unexpected help, Nia takes matters into her own hands to create the future she seeks.

Michelle Kadarusman writes with great compassion as she explores issues that some girls around the world face, including poverty, forced marriage and a lack of education, health care and opportunities.

Thank you for the copy of this book to review University of Queensland Press.

Happy reading!


It's 1969 and change is in the air...

Man is about to step foot on the moon as Sharnie Burley takes her first steps into high school with its new rules, new subjects and the challenge of making new friends. 

Sharnie's view of the world is widening. As the Vietnam War rages overseas, people at home in Australia are protesting in the streets against the war and sending young men to fight without having a choice (conscription). Opinions are dividing society and friends are becoming enemies at school. There is conflict in Sharnie's family too when her big sister Cas gets involved in anti-war protests and upsets their father who believes fighting for your country is an honour. Sharnie wants to share her worries with Gran, but her beloved Gran is fighting a battle of her own. Along with Gail, her unlikely new friend, Sharnie finds her voice through art and begins to make her own mark on the world. 

Footprints on the Moon by Lorraine Marwood is a verse novel with many layers skilfully and sensitively woven together using beautiful imagery linked to the moon landing.

Thank you for the copy of this book to review University of Queensland Press. 

Happy reading!

Teacher notes 


Inspired by the true story of Muslims who saved the lives of Jewish children in the Second World War.

It is no longer safe for Ruben and his parents to shelter in Uncle Abe’s cellar so his mother reluctantly takes him to the Grand Mosque in Paris which is secretly providing shelter for Jewish children. Ruben is to wait there until the mysterious Fox can take him to Spain to reunite with his parents and his missing older sister, Rosa. Ruben’s mother tells him “You must be strong like the cedars in Jardin des Plantes. You must not bend like the sapling in the wind.”

To hide his true identity Ruben has to learn to pray, eat and speak as a Muslim. Ruben becomes Abdul. The only link he has left to his family and religion is the tattered yellow Star of David he hides in his shoe. At the mosque, Ruben is offered shelter and kindness, but one mistake and his life and the people protecting him could be killed. The Imam warmly welcomes him into his family and Daan becomes Ruben’s protective older brother. He also befriends feisty orphan Amra who he works with in the garden until Nazi soldiers raid the mosque and he is forced to flee.

Ruben is helped by Evette and Fida to escape along with orphans Hana and her little brother Momo. He has to be strong like the cedar and needs courage and resilience to survive the dangerous journey through filthy sewers beneath the streets of Paris and  a life-threatening river crossing to reach the South of France where he finally discovers the surprising identity of the infamous Fox.

Beyond Belief is a moving story of family, friendship and faith that shines a light on brave people from different religions working together with courage, compassion and kindness during one of the darkest times in history. 

Beyond Belief was inspired by Dee White’s own family's story during the Holocaust and her older brother provided inspiration for eleven-year-old Ruben. Dee also travelled to Paris for the research that brings this story to life with its detail. This is the first I have heard of the Muslims who saved Jewish children in Paris. I'm so glad their little known story has been told and I hope Dee will be writing more stories of 'Heroes of the Holocaust'. 

When you have finished reading Beyond Belief, look closely at the front cover for seven clues from the story. Can you find them? Why do you think the title is Beyond Belief?

Look HERE to read more about how Dee wrote Beyond Belief or if you would like to try some of her ideas for writing your own story.

Happy reading!


Wonder Quinn is a lonely orphan who lives in a little nook in the old, dusty school archives room. Her only companions are a gloomy crow called Hollowbeak with knowing black-button eyes and her treasured books. Each new school year, Wonder yearns for a true friend..

A friend who saw her heart.
A friend who saw her.
A friend to wind up the clockwork key and begin her again.
Make her new.

Now that would be a thing!

This is the year Wonder's dream will come true when Mabel Clattersham with her blaze of red hair sits next to Wonder in class and says 'Let's be friends, shall we?" 

It's like they are destined to meet and a warm friendship grows between fiery, outspoken Mabel and Wonder who is quiet and shy. But Mabel has a secret and shares an unusual list of wishes including throw a pie, touch a star and break someone's heart. Wonder promises to help her new friend, but can she protect her own heart from being broken? There is a sense of urgency as the list grows smaller and together Wonder and Mabel stand up to Georgiana Kinch, share bravery and laughter, make marks on each other's lives and find the freedom they seek. 

Kate Gordon has written a gentle, enchanting and mysterious story that ends with a heartfelt twist. You can't help falling in love with Wonder, Mabel and Hollowbeak who come to life with Kate's rich descriptive writing and the story within is magically captured by Rachel Tribout's front cover illustration that sparkles with burnished gold.

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn  is a story of friendship, courage and being true to yourself that will squeeze your heart. 

Thank you to  UQP for a copy of The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn to review.


Happy reading!

The true story of young nurse, Sister Alice Ross-King who sailed to war in 1914 to become the most decorated woman in Australia.


When Alice Ross-King left Melbourne in 1914, she was one of more than 2,000 nurses who volunteered during WWI to work in hospitals, hospital ships, trains and medical posts near the battlefront to care for wounded soldiers. Alice is also the great grandmother of Kate Simpson who is the author of this inspiring and moving story.

Kate says "I am so grateful for her war diaries. Although we never met, I feel that I have come to know her through her words." 

In Anzac Girl, Kate Simpson has carefully woven extracts from Alice's war diaries and letters with her own storytelling to transport readers to the battlefields of WWI. We are with Alice when she meets her sweetheart Harry Moffitt in Cairo and they sit atop a pyramid having tea and feel her grief when she receives a sad letter about Harry. We see Alice in France tirelessly nursing rows of wounded soldiers, some of them hardly old enough to shave and we are in awe when she risks her life to protect her patients amidst 'the roar of planes and Archies' as Germans bomb her medical post. Alice King-Ross was awarded the Military Medal for her courage and devotion to duty that night on July 22nd, 1917.

Through Alice's eyes we witness the devastation and heartache of war, but we also see courage, resilience, compassion and kindness.

So much thought and care have gone into the visual details of Anzac Girl, from the embossed text on the cover (touch it!), collaged end papers, red poppies scattered throughout, diary entries and in particular Jess Rackyleft's gentle, poignant watercolour and mixed media illustrations. Jess has done an enormous amount of research to find Primary Sources to inform and create her illustrations, including photos, postcards, maps, posters and even a vintage apricot dress that all bring the story to life.The text and illustrations combine seamlessly to draw you into Alice's story and touch your heart. 

Alice Ross-King wearing her Military Medal
Marion Sander: Public Domain

Alice Ross-King would be proud of the exceptional way her story has been told. 

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

Oh my heart! This week I was lucky to see the incredible stage show of War Horse based on one of my favourite books by Michael Morpurgo.

War Horse is the story of the unbreakable bond between farm boy Albert and his horse Joey who he has raised from a foal. Albert is devastated when his father sells Joey to the cavalry at the beginning of WWI as a war horse to be ridden into battle. Keeping his promise to Joey that they would always be together, 16-year-old Albert lies about his age and bravely joins the war to find his beloved horse. It is a story of friendship, courage and loyalty that is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

The play of War Horse brilliantly takes the story from the page to the stage. No longer bound by the pages of a book, it immerses you in the story through sound, lighting, moving images, music and song. The play transports you from Albert’s family farm in Devon, England to the chaotic battlefields of France where the explosions from the cannons are loud enough to make you jump in your seat like me! The actors, puppeteers and animal puppets take you on an emotional journey as you join Albert in his mission to find Joey.

The exquisitely handcrafted life size puppet animals are the highlight of the show. Talented puppeteers breathe life into the puppets and before long you forget they are there and simply see the animals. Three puppeteers work in a team as the head, heart and hind to bring Joey and the other horses to life. Their teamwork creates the horse’s movement and emotions. From the simple twitch of his ears through to the swish of his tail, the puppeteers show Joey’s playfulness and love for Albert as he responds to his whistle, and Joey's extraordinary courage and determination on the battlefield. Both horses, Joey and Topthorn are simply magnificent! Watch this behind the curtain video to learn how the Handspring puppeteers bring their puppets to life.

The War Horse stage show was all that I had hoped for and more and just like the book it touched my heart! It will be showing at the Regent Theatre in Melbourne until February, 8th. This play is best suited for children who are 10+ and I'm definitely giving it a 'tissue alert'.

Even if you don't see the stage show, I highly recommend you read War Horse the book.


Sima is an Afghan girl living in a detention centre. Dan is a 'parkie kid' living at the local caravan park. Both are seeking freedom beyond their wire fences.

Sima’s dad told her to run.

Dan finds her hiding in the school toilet block.

What should Dan do? Help her? Dob her in? She’s breaking the law, but is it right to lock kids up?

And if he helps, should Sima trust him? Or run?

This moment, these decisions, will change their lives.

Twelve-year-old Sima is an Afghan Hazara refugee whose family has been locked up in a detention centre for two years. They are in fear of being sent back to Afghanistan where their lives will be in great danger. Along with fifty others, Sima and her family make a daring attempt to escape at 5.28 am one morning. A guard raises the alarm and in the chaos, Sima finds herself alone and running for her life. She hides in the toilet block at the local high school, but the escape has triggered a school lockdown and Border Force officers are checking every room. Then Dan finds her…

Dan lives on the wrong side of town in an old, battered blue-and-white Jayco caravan at Midgenba Pines caravan park. His mum is often absent and he does his best to look after himself and go to school. Sadly, most people expect 'parkie kids' to break the law and end up in jail. That's not what Dan plans for his life. However, this is exactly what might happen if he decides to help Sima...

"But how can he raise the alarm, knowing what she said will happen to her and her little sister? A baby. How can that be the right thing to do? How can what's legal and what's right be two different things?"

Detention is a gripping and fast-paced story about trust, courage, freedom, hope and doing what you think is right. You will be on an emotional roller coaster with Sima and Dan, thinking about what you would do in the same situation as you quickly turn pages, hold your breath and hope Sima makes it to Leeton.

Tristan Bancks has written a book that both makes your heart race and fills it with compassion. 

What would you risk to save a life?

Free-Photos / Pixabay

You can read the first three chapters of Detention HERE. Tristan would love to hear what YOU thought about his book!

Happy reading!

Teacher Notes

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