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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

The Right Way to Rock by Nat Amoore is an uplifting story filled with heart and humour, seasoned with songs and garnished with gherkins. 

Mac Fleetwood Cooper’s mum is obsessed with rock music. She thinks rock is the only music worth listening to and is doing all she can to help eleven-year-old Mac become a rock star. Mac wants to make his mum proud, so there's no way he can tell her that he loves Broadway musicals and his dream is to write his own one day.

Mac is invited to join the Secret Society of Broadway Music Appreciation (SSOBMA,) and meets Flynn, a talented pianist who has Tourette’s syndrome. Through the boys' friendship we learn what it’s like to have a condition that causes people to have tics (sounds, movement, words and phrases) that they have no control over. Mac shows us how we can be supportive and accept people for who they are. 

When Mac learns The Arts program at Watterson Primary is going to be cut, he is devastated because music with Ms Fox is his favourite class. Mac knows he has to do something to save the program and his teachers’ jobs. It’s an Arts Fiasco! Mac and Flynn devise a daring plan. Watterson: The Musical! is born and becomes a wonderful celebration of friendship, community and The Arts. Go Gherkin Guys!

Nat’s love of musicals shines in The Right Way To Rock. The story is written in acts and scenes rather than chapters and each scene begins with a song re-written from a musical – so much creativity! Nat has also brought back characters from her books Secrets of Schoolyard Millionaire and The Power of Positive Pranking. I really enjoyed the return of Kathy and Mr Piddles who have some surprises of their own.

You can read The Right Way to Rock on its own, but I highly recommend you read Secrets of Schoolyard Millionaire and The Power of Positive Pranking first if you haven’t read them yet. 

Enjoy Nat's unboxing video of  The Right Way To Rock 

This morning I had a moment of serendipity (“Google it!” Tess Heckleston would say). As I was finishing reading The Right Way To Rock, my phone pinged with a photo memory from five years ago on this day. It was the photo below I took of the stage at Matilda The Musical…. read The Right Way to Rock to find out why I smiled at the amazing coincidence!

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!


Across the Risen Sea by Bren Macdibble is an action-packed adventure set in a future affected by climate change where the sea has risen and communities are finding new ways to live.

Naoma and Jag (Jaguar) are best friends who want to become the best fisher people and salvagers on the whole inland sea. They are 'living gentle lives' on high ground, living off the land, fishing and salvaging what they need for their small community in the peaceful Ockery Islands.

One day, three tall strangers from the Valley of the Sun arrive unannounced to chop down trees and set up a mysterious piece of 'Teknology' on Cottage Hill. No explanation is given. Naoma decides to take things into her own hands, but Jag is taken away to the Valley of the Sun to pay the debt instead of Naoma because "A wild spark like you will be no end of trouble."

Naoma boldy sets off alone across the risen sea in Licorice Stix to rescue Jag and find the truth needed to save her village and their way of life. With Naoma as narrator, we are swept along on her daring and dangerous journey as she bravely battles boat-jumping crocodiles, a hungry giant shark and tries to evade Pirate Bradshaw, a mad and ruthless sea hag.

One of my favourite parts of the story is when the elusive Valley of the Sun appears beyond the fog and is not at all what I was expecting to see and is very ingenious!

Across the Risen Sea encourages us to think about our own impact on the planet as it explores life in a world affected by climate change and highlights the importance of communities finding ways to work together with understanding and respect. It also has a stunning cover that captures the dangers Naoma faces sailing alone across the menacing waves. Take a close look at the cover, what do you see? Would you have braved sailing alone across the sea to rescue Jag? 

You might also enjoy reading Bren's previous books How to Bee and The Dog Runner.

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!


I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me  by Maggie Hutchings is a gentle story of kindness and compassion, looking closely at the world around us and opening our hearts to others.

A small boy is the only one who sees Pete's warm smile and bright drawings as he sits quietly with his dog on a busy footpath. When the boy says hello, Pete gives him a picture of a yellow bird like flying sunshine and their friendship begins. The boy makes Pete visible to others and through small acts of kindness, the boy and his local community care for Pete. While snuggled in his bed, the boy wishes he could give Pete a safe and warm home of his own. When Pete gets sick and nobody knows where he's gone, his little friend knows the best way to get a message to Pete.

Yellow sunshine flows through Evie Barrow's hand-drawn pencil illustrations highlighting kindness, friendship and hope in this tender story. I especially love that the endpapers wrap the book up in the warm colourful blanket given to Pete. Can you find the blanket in the story? 

I Saw Pete and Pete Saw Me shows us the connections we can make when we open our eyes to see the people around us. During lockdown here in Melbourne, I have enjoyed meeting and talking to people on my daily walks, especially older people who have the most interesting stories to share when you take the time to stop and listen. Everybody has a story.

One dollar from each sale is donated to The Big Issue that helps homeless and disadvantaged people make positive changes to their lives.

Happy reading!



My dog, Ugly is a genius. All the kids in my class reckon he is too. He’s the school hero. I’m not showing off. It’s a fact.

If you’re a dog lover like me, you’ll love the adventures of Eric Bright and his best mate Ugly who was Eric's present for his eighth birthday. My Dog is a Winner by Elizabeth Fensham is the third book in the series including My Dog Doesn’t Like Me and My Dog Gets a Job.

These days Ugly is a star companion dog at Eric’s school where he proudly wears his therapy-dog vest and blue-and-gold school tie. Ugly and Eric’s Grandad volunteer to work with kids like Barnaby who is autistic and Maryam who has recently arrived from Syria. Ugly seems to know just the right thing to do to support and encourage them and be a friend. He can even talk in his own doggish way. Every school needs an Ugly!

Eric is sad to discover what is making his big sister Gretchen miserable and even meaner than usual and is determined to find a way to help her. 

With the school pet show coming up, Eric has plans for Ugly to win big time, then Ugly goes off his food and refuses to play. Eric knows something is up with his best mate.

Can Eric’s famous quiz help him with a plan to fix both Gretchen and Ugly?

My Dog is a Winner is a fun read that celebrates the gift of friendship, the joy of pets and the importance of caring for others.

Elizabeth Fensham has dedicated this book to Angela Davies, a headmistress and her dog, Chad who was a member of the school staff. I have often wished I could have a dog in my school library. My local Yarra Plenty Library branches have Doggy Tales so after school children can read to dogs who love to listen to stories.

jarmoluk / Pixabay

Thank you  to UQP for a copy of My Dog is a Winner to review. 

Happy reading!





Leave taking: (noun) the act of saying goodbye.

Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood is a gentle and heart-squeezing verse novel about saying goodbye, cherishing memories and new beginnings. Toby and his mum and dad are leaving their family farm after the death of Toby’s younger sister Leah. ‘Deep Well Farm’ is the only place Toby has called home and it’s hard to understand why his parents want to leave.

Toby’s dad gives him a map of the farm he’d drawn as a boy and marked with his special places. Toby creates his own version of the map that he calls 'Leave taking'. Armed with his map, a tent and sleeping bag and his trusty best friend,Trigger by his side, Toby uses his map to say goodbye to the chook house, Pa’s truck, the machinery shed and other places and things that hold a special meaning for both he and Leah. Toby’s map is on the back endpaper so you can follow along as he recalls precious memories and says his goodbyes.

Free-Photos / Pixabay

Toby reminds us that saying goodbye isn’t always easy, but the people and places we have loved will always be with us in our hearts and our memories.

Lorraine Marwood's carefully crafted words in Leave Taking leave you feeling as though you have been wrapped in a warm and comforting hug.

(You might need some tissues as you read).

Leaving Taking is on the 2019 CBCA Short List: Books For Younger Readers

Happy reading!

Teacher notes

Dawn and her friends have a plan!
They are going to eat as many leaves as they can,
weave cocoons and turn into moths so they can fly!
Easy peasy right?

Dawn the caterpillar discovers that changing from a caterpillar into a moth is not as easy as it sounds. Eating leaves all day long is the easy part. There are knots and tangles and Dawn's patience is tested as she learns to use sticky silk threads to weave her cocoon...argh!! Finally tucked into her cosy cocoon, Dawn misses her friends and waits and worries that her wings may never sprout. What if she doesn't grow them at all? Dawn reminds us to not give up on our dreams as she faces one final challenge before she can fly and chase the lights with her friends.

Aura Parker's playful water colour and ink illustrations include tiny details that invite you to take a closer look. Cocoon's vibrant endpapers are bursting with nature, but why are they different? Can you find the eggs, caterpillars, cocoons and moths that Aura has cleverly hidden in the endpapers?

Dawn is a delightful character and Aura captures her emotions with such simplicity. How do you think does Aura does this? Look at the illustrations for some clues.

Click on the picture to enlarge

One of my favourite pages is the dream cocoon that Dawn imagines with her own nectar pool and wing design studio. I wonder what you would include in a dream cocoon for Dawn? 

Explore HERE if you are interested in information that compares moths and butterflies.

If you enjoy being creative, Aura has designed a cocoon finger puppet for you to colour and make HERE

If you enjoyed reading Twig, you are going to love reading Cocoon too!

Happy reading!

The Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria on Saturday, 7 February 2009 were among Australia's worst bushfire disasters.

Ella Holcombe grew up in Kinglake and The House on the Mountain was her childhood home that burnt down on Black Saturday.  

At the end of her book Ella has written an important message that she would like you to read with a grown-up.

Remembering Black Saturday
There is fire coming, and we need to move quickly. Mum and Dad start packing bags, grabbing woollen blankets, the first-aid kit, torches and then the photo albums. Dad puts Ruby on her lead and ties her up near the back door. My chest feels hollow, like a birdcage.

The House on the Mountain is told through the eyes of a young girl as she remembers the fiercely hot and windy day in February when her family drove down the mountain at Kinglake to escape a raging bushfire. When her family is allowed to return home, she is shocked to see ‘the hills are bald, with black spikes where the trees used to be’. In their street everything is silent and it’s like ‘stepping into a picture book after all the colour has been drained out’. It’s hard to make sense of what remains of their house.

It’s strange living at Nan’s house and returning to school to learn some teachers and kids will never come back because of the fire. Months pass before the family can move back to their block of land where they live in two caravans as they rebuild their house with help from friends. Slowly shoots of green start to appear in the trees and plants poke through the blackened ground as wildlife returns and life moves forward.

David Cox’s illustrations are a special part of this book in the way they capture both the power and destruction of the bushfire and the natural beauty of Kinglake that Ella remembers from her childhood days. David used photos so the house in the book looks exactly like Ella's mudbrick family home. 

The House on the Mountain is a story of of resilience, healing and hope and a love letter from Ella to her parents.

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