Fiction Resource Books for the Primary Years Programme of Inquiry 


This is a list of books which we hope will be a useful resource for teachers and librarians for the Primary Years Programme of Inquiry of the International Baccalaureate. We have tried to choose books which do not have a narrow focus but which are trans-disciplinary in concept. Please contact us if you would like recommendations for books on specific subject areas, and at a particular age level. We have divided the list into the six organizing themes (though we realise that there can be considerable overlap between various themes) and have made up separate lists for fiction and non-fiction titles. We have given an indication of reading levels for each of the titles. Recommended by Kate Shepherd, Mandy Clarke & Louise Pfanner


Who we are 

Feelings by Aliki pb 9780688065188 $13.00
This book has been in print since 1984 but it still seems as fresh as when I first read it. Through short vignettes, stories and cartoons Aliki shows so many types of feelings and she especially shows how other children feel as a result of someone’s actions. The delightful sketches will inspire much discussion. (5 – 8 years) KS

Dreams of Freedom in words and pictures from Amnesty International UK hb 9781847804532 $27.95
This collection looks at some of our freedoms such as freedom from fear, freedom of expression, freedom to take responsibility, to learn, to make a difference, to feel safe, to have a home. Each double page spread looks at these freedoms through the brief words of various people such as Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai, among many others, and is illustrated by artists such as Peter Sis, Chris Riddell, Mordicai Gerstein, Jackie Morris and indigenous Australian Sally Morgan. The jacket illustration is by Oliver Jeffers. At the back of the book, underneath a small print of each of the pictures found in the book, is a brief biography of each author and illustrator. In his foreword, Michael Morpurgo hopes this book will “inspire young readers to stand up for others and to make a difference”. It will certainly be useful for sparking discussion. (6-12 years) MC 

Free? Stories Celebrating Human Rights Amnesty International pb 9781406318302 $17.95 
I was pleased and surprised that I found this collection of stories so enjoyable. I guess I was surprised at the number of stories which were humorous. The stories are all very different; a couple are written in verse, one has a dialogue like a play, some emphasise clever word play while others are more heartfelt and they are set in many different countries. There are fifteen authors including Eoin Colfer, Roddy Doyle, Theresa Breslin, Michael Morpurgo and Margaret Mahy. However the stories I preferred were written by authors I didn’t know at all, authors such as Sarah Mussi and Meja Mwangi. There is a brief biography of all the authors at the end of the book as well as a simplified version of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All royalties of the sale of this book go to Amnesty International. (11 years up) KS

Cleversticks by Bernard Ashley & Derek Brazell (illus) pb 9780517883327 $16.00 
When Ling Sung starts school, he doesn’t like it because everyone can do things that he can’t do. However all his problems disappear when he discovers that he can do something that no one else can do – he can use chopsticks. A picture book which is a great confidence builder. (5 – 7 years) KS

The Last King of Angkor Wat by Graeme Base hb 9780670077151 $26.99
Tiger, Gibbon, Water Buffalo and Gecko are lounging in the ruins of one of the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. Inspired by the stone carvings of kings, each argues that he would have been a great ruler. An old statue of the Elephant King comes to life and sets them a challenge: they must journey to the temple on the top of the hill, proving along the way that they have strength, compassion, resilience and courage. Off they race but at the end the Elephant King points out that none of them has all of the qualities of a great king. They are humbled by their experience and strive for self-improvement. Gorgeous illustrations. (5/6 – 8 year olds) MC

Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby B Beeler & G Brian Karas (illus) hb 9780395891087 $32.00 pb 9780618152384 $13 
This is a fascinating book as it describes traditions of what children from around the world do with their baby teeth that have fallen out. A common tradition in many countries from Africa to Asia to Europe is to throw the tooth onto or over the roof of their house. (6 – 9 years) KS

Would you rather? By John Burningham pb 9780099200413 $17.99
A book of choices which invites lots of discussion as children decide whether they would rather help a witch make stew or help Santa when he delivers presents, whether they would rather eat mashed worms or spider stew. (5 – 8 years) KS

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi pb 9780440417996 $14.00
A story about a young Korean girl who thinks she will choose an American name when she comes to live in America in order to fit in better. However in the end she decides that her name, Unhei meaning Grace, reflects herself and her culture. A lesson in cultural understanding in the classroom. (7 – 10 years) KS

Christophe’s Story by Nicki Cornwall pb 9781847802507 $16.00
Christophe is an eight year old boy from Rwanda who flees the fighting in his country to come to England as a refugee with his family. His problems in settling in are described but the book is also about different ways of telling stories. Christophe doesn’t want to read stories in books because his grandfather had always told him stories aloud, and had said that if stories are written down then their spirit is lost. However when Christopher tells aloud to his class the story of how he came to England and of the violence in Rwanda, he decides he is happy for it to be written down word for word so that many children are able to hear his story. (7 – 10 years) KS

The Little Refugee by Anh Do and Suzanne Do illustrated by Bruce Whatley hb 9781742378329 $24.99
This is the picture book version of a very popular adult book, The Happiest Refugee, about Anh Do and his family's escape from war-torn Vietnam in an overcrowded boat, and their very dangerous journey to Australia. The book also describes his childhood in Australia, and his family’s efforts to fit in and make a new life for themselves. Bruce Whatley uses a mixture of illustration styles, with sepia and grey-toned realistic sketches reflecting the trauma of the war and the boat journey, contrasting with simpler, comic-style coloured drawings once the family reaches the safety of Australia. (5 – 10 years) KS MC

Parvana by Deborah Ellis pb 9781865086941 $15.95
Set in Afghanistan in the time of the Taliban, Parvana is an eleven year old girl who used to love going to school but under the Taliban ruling was forced to stay at home. When both her parents lose their jobs and then her father is arrested, their plight becomes desperate since girls and women were not allowed to leave the house unless accompanied by a man. In order for the family to survive, Parvana disguises herself as a boy. The story gives us an insight into some of the recent traumatic events in Afghanistan. The emphasis is on a young girl’s courage and determination. (The original Canadian novel is called The Breadwinner) The sequels are Parvana’s Journey pb 9781865089997 $15.95 and Parvana’s Promise pb 9781743312988 $15.99 (10 - 14 years) KS

My Map Book by Sara Fanelli hb 9780060264550 $32.00
In this book Sara Fanelli shows us a uniquely childlike perspective of her world drawn through maps. There are maps of her bedroom, of her family and of her neighbourhood. The map of her day shows the day divided chronologically into portions from morning till night but also includes a map showing how the school bus goes to school. She is able to fit so much of her life and what she does into her maps. There are maps of colours, and of her heart showing the things she loves most and of her face. I am sure this book will enthuse children to also draw unique maps of their lives. (5 – 9 years) KS

Flour Babies by Anne Fine pb 9780140361476 $16.99
A very entertaining novel in which a class is given a lesson in responsibility when they have to care for their “flour babies” which are really six pound bags of flour, as if they were real babies. (9 – 13 years) KS

Guess the Baby by Simon French and Donna Rawlins pb 9780733306143 $14.99 
A sparkling picture book about a class of young children who are delighted when Jake’s baby brother comes to the classroom. There is a lot of discussion about babies and when each child (and the teacher) bring a photo of themselves as a baby to school there is animated discussion as they try to work out who is who. (5 – 8 years) KS






Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson pb 9781741753349 $15.95
The story of a young girl who with her family of mother, father, and younger brother and sister, are forced to flee Afghanistan during the time of the Taliban. They travel for many days by truck over rugged mountains into Pakistan where they wait while their father makes his way first to Australia. When they don’t hear from him, they finally decide to make their own way to Indonesia and then across to Darwin in a perilous journey with many others in a small fishing boat. This is an amazing story based on true stories of courage and determination. (11 – 15 years) KS

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman pb 9780141308388 $16.95 
Gleitzman has succeeded in writing a comic/tragic account of a refugee family from Afghanistan. Jamal and Bibi are ordinary kids who love soccer and kids will relate to their plight as they are forced to flee Afghanistan, because their mother has been running a school for girls, which was of course forbidden. Their lives are often in great danger but amazingly enough the story is often very funny. There is much that can be discussed. Girl Underground pb 9780143300465 $16.95 is the sequel where Bibi and Jamal are now in a detention centre in Australia. (9 years up) KS

A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham hb 9781406334197 $27.95 pb 9781406343717 $16.95 
When an old bus with a handwritten destination sign that says ‘heaven’ is abandoned in the street outside Stella’s house, everything changes. The bus is pushed off the road into Stella’s driveway, painted and cleaned, and when folk come from all around the neighbourhood, the bus becomes a community meeting place. This celebration of community is Bob Graham at his best. (5 – 10 years) MC

Sami and the Time of the Troubles by Florence Parry Heide & Judith Heide Gilliland illustrated by Ted Lewin pb 9780395720851 $13.00
Sami and his family have to spend much of their day in doors, sheltering away from the bombs and gunfire that are everywhere outside in the streets of Beirut. A beautifully illustrated and moving picture book describing the anguish of people trying to survive in countries torn apart by warfare. (7 – 11 years) KS

The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman & Karin Littlewood (illus) pb 9780711219915 $18.00 
Hassan is miserable at school in England where everything is grey, and where he can’t talk to anyone since he doesn’t speak English. When he paints a picture of his far away home, he remembers the terrible time when the soldiers came. However the next day he talks to an interpreter and paints another picture in bright colours for his mother of their happier times in the house that used to be his home in Somalia. (6 – 9 years) KS

Chidi Only Likes Blue: An African Book of Colours by Onyefulu Ifeoma pb 9781845075132 $16.00 
While Chidi only likes the blue of his best shirt, his sister loves all the colours of their African village. This picture book cleverly combines an exploration of colours with a description of an African village, a simple text and beautiful photographs of the houses, designs, food, plants etc in the village. (5 – 10 years) KS

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw hb 9780805089462 $32.00 
Two little boys, Elliot and Kailash, are pen-pals who live in very different worlds. Through their exchange of drawings and simple letters, they discover that they both live with their families, catch the bus to school and love climbing trees; there’s too much traffic in both their cities – in one the streets are full of taxis, buses and cars, while the other has few cars, but you will find elephants, oxen, chickens, bicycles, carts and people carrying all manner of things on their heads. Same, same but different! The cultural differences in their everyday lives in America and India can be discovered in the details of the boys’ drawings. (4-8 year olds) MC

We All Went on Safari A Counting Journey through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs & Julia Cairns (illus) hb 9781841484785 $24.99 pb 9781841481197 $12.99 
This is a delightfully illustrated counting book which, as well counting up to ten in numbers and in Swahili, introduces us to some of the wonderful African animals of the grasslands of Tanzania. This bright and lively counting book also serves as a very helpful introduction to this African country with information about the animals and the names of the children. (4 - 10 years) KS

Clive eats Alligators 9780733621093, Rosie Sips Spiders 9780733621079, Celeste Sails to Spain 9780733621062, When Frank was Four 9780733621086 by Alison Lester pb $16.99 each. 
These simple picture books show the individuality and strong likes and dislikes of seven children. Good to use as a catalyst for discussion of what students like and dislike. 



Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo pb 9780733621055 $16.99 has a similar format and describes six new Aboriginal friends who Ernie meets when he goes to live in the north of Australia. This is a wonderfully simple but vibrant introduction to Aboriginal life and to the tropical seasons in the north of Australia. (5 – 8 years) KS

Ten Tiny Things by Meg McKinlay & Kyle Hughes-Odgers (illus) hb 9781921888946 $24.99 
Mum drives Tessa and Zachary to school every day in air-conditioned comfort . One morning the machine won’t work and they have to walk. Their bags were heavy, their legs hurt, for it was such a long way. Then Tessa noticed a tiny, tiny, red, sparkly thing, and Zachary saw another, smooth and blue and secret. They saw many secret somethings and hidden happenings. From that day forth, they walked to school and every day they looked for ten tiny things. I love this book! The text is full of rhythm, alliteration and wonderful words, the illustrations unusual and really striking. Australian author and illustrator. (5 - 8 year olds) MC 

No Gun for Asmir by Christobel Mattingley pb 9780140367294 $16.95 
This novel is set in war torn Sarajevo. A Muslim mother and two children escape to become refugees without knowing what has happened to the father left behind in Sarajevo. This moving story is told from the point of view of Asmir, the elder boy and is based on a real life story. (9 – 13 years) KS

The Mozart Question by Michael Morpurgo & Michael Foreman (illus) hb 9780763635527 $29.00 pb 9781406312201 $15.95
This is the story of a famous violinist who decides to tell a young reporter about his past which he had previously kept secret. He describes how, as a young boy, he learnt to play the violin in secret and later discovered that his teacher and his parents had all played the violin in an orchestra in the Nazi concentration camps. It was their playing that kept them alive but they saw thousands sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. His father had vowed never to play again. Paolo promised his father that he would never play Mozart, for Mozart was the music his parents had to play in the concentration camps and his father just couldn’t bear to hear it played. This book is written with heartfelt simplicity and is beautifully illustrated with watercolours. (9 – 15 years) KS

Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton hb 9781444916720 $30.00
Part one of this story begins with a lovely quote from Mark Twain. “There are two sides to every story and then there is the truth.” In the first part of this story a little girl describes how she saw a strange little beast in the forest and so she carefully wrapped him up and took him home and cared for him but he didn’t seem to appreciate all her care and he ran away. However in the second part of the story, told by the little beast, he describes how he was ambushed, tied up, kept in a small house where he couldn’t hang upside down the way he liked. Children will be delighted at the different perspectives shown and at the engaging and very amusing illustrations. (5 – 8 years) KS


Mohammed’s Journey: A Refugee Diary by Anthony Robinson & Annemarie Young illustrated by June Allan pb 9781847802095 $16.95 
Mohammed was only six years old when his father was beaten and taken away by Saddam Hussein’s soldiers. Mohammed and his mother fled Kurdistan in northern Iraq making their way in a perilous journey to England where they were accepted as refugees in 2002. This very moving picture book is told in Mohammed’s words and is illustrated with photos and illustrations. (7 – 10 years)
 
Also in the series are; 
Hazmat’s Journey: A Refugee Diary hb 9781847800305 $29.95 A true story about a boy who grew up in Chechnya and lost his leg when he stepped on a landmine. 
Gervelie’s Journey: A Refugee Diary pb 9781847800046 $16.95 Gervelie had to flee when fighting broke out in the Republic of Congo. 
Meltem’s Journey hb 9781847800312 $29.95 about a Kurdish girl whose family fled from Eastern Turkey. In each of these refugee stories the child makes the journey to England to begin a new life. (7 – 10 years) KS



This is Our House by Michael Rosen & Bob Graham (illus) pb 9780763628161 $14.00 
George has decided that he is the only one who can play in the big cardboard house but the other children are determined that everyone shall play in it. A charming and humorous picture book about sharing and cooperation. (4 - 8 years) KS

The Arrival by Shaun Tan hb 9780734406941 $29.99
This extraordinary book is textless and depicts many strange things and a world that we do not understand and yet at the same time the story is not difficult to understand. It shows the experience of an immigrant when he or she comes to a country where they know no one and understand very little. However on arriving in the new land, new friends are met and they show how things work and they also tell the stories of how they too came to this new land. And so we get the very moving stories of a number of immigrant families. The illustrations are meticulously drawn in detailed panels of illustrations or sometimes full page illustrations in black and white or various shades of grey and sepia. It is a very evocative and moving book. It could be used with children from about 9 years up. It is especially helpful for discussion with any study concerning immigrants. (9 years to adult) KS

Here’s a Little Poem: A very First Book of Poetry Collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters hb 9780763631413 $37.95 pb 9781406327113 $19.95 
It is an art to write a good poem and also an art to choose a selection of poems which are so lively; silly at times, and warm and comforting at others. This collection contains over 60 poems written by American and British poets ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson to Jack Prelutsky and from Roger McGough to Rosemary Wells and it includes of course wonderful poems by Anonymous. The poems describe the experiences of young children and are arranged in the categories of Me, Myself and I, Who Lives in My House? I Go Outside and Time for Bed. Polly Dunbar has brought additional life and humour with her illustrations which are at times exuberant and at other times gentle and warm. All in all, this is an extremely appealing collection of poetry for young children. (3 – 7 years) KS



Where we are in place and time


Mirror by Jeannie Baker hb 9781406309140 $39.95
A wonderfully innovative and surprising new book from an extraordinary collage artist. Inspired by a trip to Morocco, Jeannie Baker has told two stories in the one book. The stories looking like two separate books are designed to be read at the same time, one from the right and the other from the left. Page by page we experience a day in the life of two boys and their families; one in inner Sydney and the other in a remote village in Morocco. The landscapes are very different and also their clothes and their houses but in the way the families care for each other and for their communities they are essentially the same. The two families are essentially a mirror image of each other. The collage work is extraordinary and the images convey so much without the need for words. (7 – 15 years) KS

Where’s Jamela? Story and pictures by Niki Daly pb 9781847803252 $16.00
Jamela is not happy about shifting to a new house in a new neighbourhood but when they shift in and Jamela looks out of the window she is reassured by the sight of the same stars in the night sky. A story set in a lively black South African neighbourhood. (5 – 8 years) KS

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman & Bagram Ibatoulline (illus) hb 9780763646011 $27.95 This is an entrancing picture book. A little girl’s great grandfather’s room is full of mementoes and when asked to choose something she chooses a cigar box. This box contains many small matchboxes, in each of which is a memento of her great grandfather’s life. This box is really his dairy as he couldn’t read when he was young and so this was his way of keeping his memories. In one box there is an olive pit, in another a bottle top and in another some lead type. Each object has a story and together they recount her great grandfather’s trip from life in a poor Italian farming family by ship to America. The drama of immigrating is told in the words of her great grandfather and also through beautiful sepia coloured illustrations showing the difficulties and dangers of the voyage as well as the poverty of their life at first in America. This is a beautiful book which can be read to young children. However it could also be used for discussion with older students. (6 – 15 years) KS

Sarindi and the Lucky Bird by Janine Fraser & Kim Gamble (illus) pb 9780207199141 $12.95 
A simply told story about young Sarindi who lives in Yogyakarta in Java, Indonesia. His father is a becak driver (a type of bicycle taxi) and his mother makes batik. They live in just one room but Sarindi knows he is lucky. A vivid and warm portrait of a family who are struggling to make a living and perhaps from a western perspective have very little. It is an excellent book for discussion. (7 – 11 years)

Sarindi and the Lucky Buddha illustrated by Elise Hurst pb 9780732287757 $12.99 
In this sequel, Sarindi’s mother is very sick and Sarindi and his father try all sorts of things to make her better but nothing seems to work. So Sarindi visits every sacred place he knows and prays there for his mother’s health. When she does get better, they wonder if it is the medicine or the prayers or perhaps, as the western doctor suggests, it is the love of a small boy for his mother and his determination to help her get better. (7 – 10 years)

Sarindi’s Dragon Kite illustrated by Elise Hurst pb 9780732287764 $12.99
This is the third in the series about Sarindi and his family. Sarindi is looking forward to flying his wonderful new kite when their house is rocked by an earthquake. Sarindi and his family are lucky and are only slightly injured. However when they go to the nearby village where their relatives live, they discover to their horror that only little Agi, Sarindi’s cousin, is still alive. This is a moving and very believable story about the devastation that can be caused by an earthquake. (8 – 11 years) KS

The Goat Who Sailed the World by Jackie French pb 9780207200779 $14.99 
This book has two narrators, a young twelve year old boy called Isaac Manley and a much travelled and superior Goat. This narrative device gives us two very different perspectives on Cook’s amazing voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771, when Australia was discovered and the ship was almost wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. A very entertaining and informative book. (8 – 14 years) KS

Ride the Wild Wind: The Golden Pony and other Stories by Jackie French pb 9780207198304 $14.95
This is a most unusual collection of horse stories as it has stories from a wide range of periods over the ages. It begins with a story set six thousand years ago in the Ukraine, which shows how the first contact of friendship between a horse and young girl could have come about. Other stories are set in Ancient Greece, at the time of Genghis Khan, of King Arthur and in Australia in the nineteenth century. Jackie French writes about the bond that has developed over thousands of years between people and horses. (8 - 12 years) KS

How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R Friedman & Allen Say (illus) pb 9780395442357 $14.00 
A charming and amusing story of a young girl recounting how her parents, one a young Japanese school girl and the other a young US sailor, learned to master the difficult art of eating with the utensils of the other’s culture (chopsticks or knife, fork and spoon). (6 – 10 years) KS

Polar Boy by Sandy Fussell pb 9781921150388 $15.95
Iluak is a young Inuit boy and is apprehensive about a prediction that he will meet with a polar bear. Iluak meets with several bears but it is the meeting with a fierce Viking leader which is the most terrifying. The story is set in the time when the indigenous peoples of that region followed the seasons and the paths of migratory animals. It is an absorbing and at times exciting story. (9 – 13 years) KS

Silver Buttons by Bob Graham hb 9781406342246 $27.95 pb 9781406360882 $16.95
The story takes place over just one minute. At 9.59 one morning, Jodie is finishing her drawing with a silver button. At that moment her little brother Jonathan takes his first step. Time slows and the pictures zoom out over the following pages. We see Jonathan’s mum sitting in the kitchen playing a tune on her tin whistle; outside, a pigeon nests, a feather floats, an ambulance shrieks by and a shoelace is tied; over in the park children sail boats in the fountain. So much is happening, everywhere, in that same minute! Bob Graham’s picture books seem so simple but there’s always so much more to be discovered in the details of his drawings. (4-7 years) MC


Going North by Janice N Harrington & Jerome Lagarrigue (illus) hb 9780374326814 $36.00
The illustrations have an impressionistic feel and they are warm and expressive in their depiction of a black family leaving friends and family in Alabama in 1964 and making their way north to Nebraska. A young girl describes in free flowing verse the apprehension of her family as they leave, in the hope of a better life up north. The journey north has its dangers and as the car, almost empty of petrol, pulls up at Joe’s Gas with its friendly black faces the relief is heartfelt. However nothing is explained. The fact that it is understated makes the impact all the more powerful. The family is described as pioneers in their journey north in the hope of a better life. A wonderful picture book which can be used for discussion with many different age groups. (6 – 13 years) KS

Shahana by Rosanne Hawke Through My Eyes series pb 9781743312469 $15.99 
Shahana lives near the border controlled by Pakistan and Indian soldiers dividing Kashmir in two. This is an area of continual conflict since 1947. Fourteen years old Shahana and her younger brother Tanveer are trying to survive by living in the forest after the death of their parents and older brother. Islamic militants have a camp not so far away and there are soldiers on both sides of the border and there is often shelling or exchange of gun fire. Shahana is a vibrant, strong character who tries to do her best in extraordinarily difficult and dangerous circumstances. The book also gives us some idea of the complexities of the situation in Kashmir. There is an Afterword by the author, a timeline, a glossary and suggestions for further reading and a series website. (11 – 14 years) KS

Taj and the Great Camel Trek by Rosanne Hawke pb 9780702238772 $16.95 
The fascinating story of explorer Ernest Giles’ second attempt to cross the Australian desert to the coast of Western Australia told through the eyes of 12 year old Taj. Taj is accompanying his Afghan father and helps to look after the camels which provide the key to their chances of succeeding in this very dangerous journey with its constant quest for water. A convincing and very interesting account of the dangers and also of the relationships between the explorers, Taj, his father and a young Aboriginal tracker. (9 – 12 years) KS

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest & P J Lynch (illus) pb 9780763612740 $13.00 
A beautifully illustrated picture books vividly describing a young girl’s journey from eastern Europe when she migrates to a new life in America at the turn of the nineteenth century. (7 –13 years) KS



Sing to the Dawn by Minfong Ho pb 9789812610010 $12.95 
Set in a marginal rice growing area of Thailand, this short novel would be an excellent introduction to a discussion of the effect of climate and geography on village life in parts of Asia. Some of the frustrations, difficulties and injustices of village life are revealed in this story of Dawan, a 12 year old girl who strives to continue her education at a city high school in Thailand in spite of competition from her brother and opposition from her father. (10 years up) KS

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera pb 9780143011392 $22.95 
Kahu is the descendant of the line of Paikea who came originally to Aotearoa on the back of a whale. However her grandfather is disgusted that she is only a girl and not the grandson he had desired as he doesn’t believe that a girl can take over the male line of descent from Paikea. Kahu tries to show her grandfather that she can do anything that the other boys in her village can do and finally she is able to show that she is a worthy successor to the line of Paikea. (9 – 14 years)
Also in picture book format illustrated by Bruce Potter telling the story for younger readers with beautifully realistic illustrations. 
The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera & Bruce Potter (illus) pb 9780143503279 $14.95 (for younger readers) KS





Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji Li Jiang pb 9780064462082 $13.00 
A deeply moving autobiography set during the Cultural Revolution in China. Ji Li Jiang describes her own experiences as a twelve year old girl puzzling to understand the strange and terrifying events that befell her family at that time. An excellent introduction to any study of the Cultural Revolution. (11 years up) KS

Stig of the Dump by Clive King pb 9780141354859 $14.99
A classic about the intriguing encounter between Barney, a boy from today and a boy from stone age times. They learn to understand each other and are fascinated by what each can do and knows. (8 – 12 years) KS




Masai and I by Virginia Kroll & Nancy Carpenter (illus) pb 9780689804540 $14.00
A young girl from the city imagines how different her life would be if she were a Masai living on the East African plains. On each double page spread of this picture book, the illustration blends and links the two ways of life. For example, the sheet the girl spreads to make her bed merges on the opposite page into the cowhide spread on the bare earth of the Masai dwelling. An extra dimension to the story is given to the story because the girl and her family are black and she is exploring her feelings of kinship with the Masai (6 - 10 years) KS

Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester hb 9780670880676 $24.95
This is a picture book about a journey round Australia made by eight year old Grace and her family in a campervan. She describes the many special highlights of the trip: places they visited, things they did together in the car to make the long hours travelling pass amicably and also the different reactions of the various members of the family to the trip. This is a very entertaining way to get an idea of the vast differences in the various regions of Australia while following the detailed map of their journey. (6 - 11 years) KS

The House by J Patrick Lewis & Roberto Innocenti (illus) hb 9781568462011 $36.00 
The beautifully detailed illustrations in this book tell the story of a house from 1900 to 2009. The house was originally built of stone and wood in 1656 but was abandoned and the illustrations show the house being rebuilt and the happy, industrious family planting trees, growing vegetables and tending animals. However, the years from 1900 – 2009 were momentous ones, with two world wars, and the illustrations show the disastrous effects of these events on those living in the house. Each large double page spread has exactly the same perspective of the house and its surroundings. Finally, in 1973, the house was again abandoned, to be totally rebuilt in 1999 as a flashy modern style house. The house is no longer a farm in tune with its surroundings, though there are still traces of the old farm. The illustrations came first and then J Patrick Lewis was asked to provide the poem. There is much detail and much to discuss. (7 – 11 years) KS



Casting the Gods Adrift by Geraldine McCaughrean pb 9780713674552 $14.95
This dramatic story is set in Egypt in the time of Akhenaten and his beautiful wife Nefertiti. Tutmose and Ibrim are honoured by the Pharaoh because of the exotic animals and birds that their father captures and presents to the Pharaoh. Tutmose describes his life at the new capital and the plans of the Pharaoh (shocking to his father and many other Egyptians) to allow only the worship of just one God, Aten, the sun-God. This is an extremely well told story which makes life in the Egyptian court come alive. (8 – 11 years) KS

Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo pb 9781405221740 $14.95 illustrated edition by Michael Foreman pb 9781405248563 $16.95 
When Michael is washed up on an island he struggles to survive on his own. He is about to give up when food appears. He is not alone. This wonderful story of survival centres round Kensuke, an elderly Japanese man who lives on the island and has survived for many years using traditional Japanese skills and crafts. (9 – 15 years) KS

Journey to Jo’burg by Beverley Naidoo pb 9780064402378 $11.00
Set in South Africa at the time of Apartheid, this is the story of two children who set out to walk 300 miles to Johannesburg in order to tell their mother that their baby sister is very ill. Their mother works for a white family and sees her own family only a few times each year. Their journey shows the harshness and discrimination of the Apartheid regime. Originally published n 1985, this edition contains a foreword by Michel Rosen and notes on Beverley Naidoo’s own background. She grew up in South Africa with a white mother and a black nanny and can hardly believe that as a child and as a young woman she never questioned the cruel system of Apartheid. (8 – 12 years) KS

Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park pb 9780140314601 $16.95 
An excellent time-slip story in which Abigail finds herself in the old Rocks area of Sydney in the 1870s. Winner of the Book of the Year Award 1981. (10 – 15 years) KS

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess, Page by Richard Platt & Chris Riddell (illus) pb 9781406330618 $19.95 
Set in the year of Our Lord 1285, this book describes a year in the life of 11 year old Toby Burgess as he sets out to become a page in his uncle’s castle. Toby is an articulate chronicler and he writes with humour and occasionally indignation, about his duties as a page, his lessons, his first hunt, attempts at archery and so on. This vivid description is “illuminated’ by the detailed and carefully researched illustrations of Chris Riddell. (8 – 13 years) KS


Egyptian Diary: The Journal of Nakht by Richard Platt & David Parkins (illus) pb 9781406330625 $19.95 
Set in the year 1455 BC, Nakht is the son of a scribe and he is learning to be a scribe himself. This is the story of their journey from a small town on the southern Nile to the city of Memphis where his father has been appointed as an important scribe. The exciting story involves a tomb robbery and describes the daily life of many Egyptians including artisans, farmers and builders. The detailed and lively illustrations as well as Notes, Glossary and Index provide additional information. (9 – 14 years) KS

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say hb 9780544050501 $24.99 pb 9780547076805 $12.99 
A beautifully illustrated picture book for older students. Allen Say’s grandfather made the journey from Japan to the United States when he was a young man and this story beautifully describes through text and illustrations the love that he and his grandson feel for both countries. Many students will relate to the feelings of longing expressed. (8 years up) KS

My Place by Nadia Wheatley & Donna Rawlins (illus) pb 9781921150654 $19.95 Big Book 9781921977954 $44.95 
This edition published in 2008 has a timeline of important events up to 2008. By moving backwards in decades from 1989, this sophisticated picture book shows how a particular neighbourhood in Sydney has changed from an urban street to the first white settlement and before to the time when the Aborigines lived there. The story is told through the eyes of the various children who lived there. An innovative book which inspires students to work on similar projects wherever they are in the world. (8 years up)
There are also DVDs of the television series of My Place. Series 1 has 13 episodes from 2008 to 1888 and Series 2 also has 13 episodes from 1878 to 1788. There are 8 discs in total. An accompanying Teachers’ Guide 2 covers Series 1 and 2. 
Series 1 & 2 and Teachers Guide for 1 & 2 $175.00
Series 2 (13 episodes on 4 discs) with accompanying Teachers’ Guide 1 & 2. $135.00 (8 – 14 years) KS

Ramose Prince in Exile by Carole Wilkinson pb 9781921167058 $16.99
This is the first book in a series set in Ancient Egypt. Ramose was the pharaoh’s rightful heir but he had to escape and live in disguise when he discovered a plot against his life. These exciting adventure stories give many details of courtly and everyday life in the time of Ancient Egypt. Other titles are Ramose and the Tomb Robbers pb 9781921167065, Ramose Sting of the Scorpion pb 9781921167225 and Wrath of Ra pb 9781921167232 $16.99 each (9 – 12 years) KS

The Lottie Project by Jacqueline Wilson pb 9780440868538 $17.99
Charlie is doing a project on the Victorians and is sure that it will be deadly dull. However when she starts writing the diary of Lottie, a girl about her own age who works as a nursery maid for a family in Victorian times, Lottie and the family come to life for Charlie. The book is written in alternate chapters. We learn about Charlie and her life with her mum and her friends and this alternates with the chapters that Charlie writes for her project about Lottie and her very difficult life. Charlie and Lottie are both called Charlotte and there are many fascinating parallels. The book is extremely revealing about our own times and about life for young girls working as servants in the Victorian period and the contrast between the working class and their employers. A very helpful book to use as an introduction to the Victorian period or as a way of thinking about history. (10 – 14 years) KS




How we express ourselves


My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me by Maya Angelou photographs by Margaret Courtney-Clarke pb 9780375825675 $14 
Told in the words of Thandi, an 8 year old Ndebele girl from South Africa, this is an engaging portrait of Thandi, her mischievous little brother and the importance in the lives the people of the village of the vibrant paintings on their houses and colourful beads and embroidery which they love to wear. A lively rhythmic text and beautiful photographs make this picture book a delight. (6 – 9 years) KS

Barefoot Book of Earth Tales by Dawn Casey & Anne Wilson (illus) pb 9781846869419 $24.00
This is a useful collection of simply told folk tales from different cultures round the world, with an emphasis on the beauty, rhythms and harmony of nature. There is an introduction to each story and also a craft project related to each story. The seven stories in the collection come from Australia, Nigeria, American South West, Bali, Kazakhstan, India and Wales. (4 – 7 years) KS

Let’s Celebrate: Festival Poems From Around the World edited by Debjani Chatterjee & Brian D’Arcy illustrated by Shirin Adl pb 9781847804792 $16.95 The authors have chosen 31 poems celebrating a variety of festivals from Divali, to Christmas, to the Cherry Blossom Festival, to Eid, to Pancake Day and even an Ice Festival. Lively brightly coloured illustrations show some of the festivities and also add to the attractiveness of this very useful book. A short description at the end of the book provides background information about each festival. The poems are lively and will initiate much discussion as students describe which festivals their own families celebrate. (7 – 11 years) KS

Tales Told in Tents: Stories from Central Asia by Sally Pomme Clayton & Sophie Herxheimer (illus) hb 9781845070663 $34.00
Sally Pomme Clayton describes how on her visits to Central Asia she has always been warmly welcomed with food, hospitality and stories. She has further researched these stories and retold them in a lively engaging style. The stories are from the steppes, mountains, deserts and cities of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadjikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. They give us a glimpse of the countryside and the history as well as the resilience of the people and their sense of humour. Notes at the end of the book describe the origin of each story and some of its background. (8 - 14 years) KS 

The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria (illus) hb 9781406322187 $24.95 
This is such a beautiful and innovative book. Our eyes tell us about colour. But what if you are blind? Is it possible to have a concept of colour? This book shows us how through simple language and beautiful textured art, out of the blackness a rainbow of colours can be visualised. Braille letters accompany the illustrations on every page and a full Braille alphabet offers sighted readers help in deciphering the text with their fingers, and sharing an experience usually known to blind readers alone. (4 – 11 years) KS

Ayu and the Perfect Moon by David Cox pb 9781921720222 $16.95
Wonderful to see this beautiful book back in print. Set in a village in Bali, an old woman tells three little girls of the time she danced for the whole village at a special ceremony when there was a full moon. The expressive and detailed illustrations show us aspects of life in the village and of the dancing and music. Interesting notes give more information about Balinese dance and about the author. (5 – 9 years) KS

A River of Stories, Tales and Poems from Across the Commonwealth compiled by Alice Curry illustrated by Jan Pienkowski hb 9780956929907 $51.00 
United by stories and poetry about water, this new anthology has contributions from every country in the Commonwealth. From St Lucia to Namibia, this rich collection stands out from other similar volumes just by its sheer variety, and the fact that every entry is by an unfamiliar author or poet. Jan Pienkowski’s illustrations - silhouettes, colourful cutouts and illuminated letters, unite all the entries creating a really appealing book. (5 - 12 years) L P 

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers (illus) hb 9780007513758 $24.99 pb 9780007513765 $14.99
A delightfully different book. When Duncan goes to take out his crayons, he finds a pile of letters all voicing the crayons’ complaints about the way they are being used. Red writes that he is worn out with being used so much to colour fire engines, Santas and apples. Grey is tired of colouring huge animals like elephants and whales. White feels ignored while Black is sick of only doing outlines. Blue is so short and stubby that it desperately needs a break. And poor pink is hurt because it hasn’t been used all year. This is great fun but it also makes us think about how we use colours and our preferences. The letters inspire Duncan to do a very bright lively picture using every single one of his crayons. (5 – 8 years) KS

Girls, Goddesses & Giants: Stories of Heroines from Around the World by Lari Don hb 9781472903068 $26.00 
These twelve lively folk tales come from all round the world and Lari Don has adapted them all in her own very expressive way. The stories are often witty and full of fun as the heroine often has to use her wiles to win out. At the end of the book Lari Don also gives brief descriptions of how she came across these stories about heroines, from China, Sumer, Greece, India and Venezuela and other countries. 
(6 – 10 years) KS

Any Questions? by Marie-Louise Gay hb 9781760113179 $19.99
Marie-Louise Gay is both an author and an illustrator and in this lively picture book, she describes some of the many questions that young children ask her about her writing and how she gets her ideas. She shows that different coloured papers can set the scene for very different illustrations; blue can be a sea scene, white a snow storm and purple a rain storm. Words too can be a catalyst for a story and she plays with ideas and words as though she is in a classroom and asking the children what they think. Then she begins a story which she imagines the children continue. This is a fun exploration of how stories and their illustrations are created. (5 – 8 years) KS 

Seasons of Splendour: Tales, Myths & Legends of India by Madhur Jaffrey & Michael Foreman (illus) pb 9780140346992 $18.00 
These are marvellous retellings of traditional tales from Hindu epics, which Madhur Jaffrey has enriched with descriptions of how the stories were told and celebrated in her own family. The stories have been arranged in sequence as they might be told at religious festivals in the course of a Hindu calendar year. This collection gives a rich personal insight into Indian life. (8 years up) KS

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Form selected by Paul B Janeczko illustrated by Chris Raschka hb 9780763606626 $32.00 pb 9780763641320 $18.00 
A delightful selection of poems which are examples of 29 different poetic forms. The author explains that knowing the rules makes the writing of the poem more challenging, more exciting, more like a game. Each poem is imaginatively illustrated and the poems are chosen for their wit, beauty and as examples of their particular form. There is a detailed description of the forms and how it works at the end of the book.  (10 – 14 years) KS

The Lion Classic Wisdom Stories by Mary Joslin & Christina Balit (illus) hb 9780745963693 $24.99 
Mary Joslin tells these stories from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Americas simply and with humour. The stories have warmth, are often funny and have many insights into various cultures and the way people behave and think. The book itself is a beautifully produced hardback with glossy paper and lovely illustrations. A few are well known traditional stories like The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson but most are not familiar to me and so this adds to the pleasure and value of the collection. (6 – 10 years) KS

Once Upon an Ordinary School Day by Colin McNaughton & Satoshi Kitamura (illus) pb 9781842704691 $18.00 
It was just an ordinary sort of dull grey day when this ordinary boy went to his ordinary school. However while he was there something extraordinary happened. A new teacher got the class to listen to some extraordinary music and this music made them imagine extraordinary things. This is a simple picture book showing the power of music and how one piece of music can have very different effects on different children. (7 – 10 years) KS

Because a Fire Was in my Head 101 Poems edited by Michael Morpurgo & Quentin Blake (illus) pb 9780571303113 $15.99
In his introduction, Michael Morpurgo describes how the best poets write in “such a way that we never want to forget what they have written. The poems they compose can be so fine, so memorable, so funny, so intense, that you want to hear them again and again inside your head… so that they become part of you.” This collection is indeed a wonderful and varied selection of poems. Some poems were written for children but others are well loved verses from Kipling, Shakespeare or W B Yeats, from Lewis Carroll, Spike Milligan, Robert Frost and that very popular Anonymous. Blake’s whimsical illustrations add an extra element of delight. (8 – 15 years) KS

Pearl Verses the World by Sally Murphy & Heather Potter (illus) pb 9781921150937 $15.95 
Pearl has always lived with her mother and her granny making a family of three but now her granny cannot remember anyone. This is such a sad time for Pearl as she feels cut off from everyone and that she has no friends. Pearl loves to write and tell stories and her granny always encouraged her but her granny also taught her that a poem does not need to rhyme and this is how Pearl writes this story, in free verse. (8 – 10 years) KS

This Same Sky: a collection of poems from around the world selected by Naomi Shihab Nye pb 9780689806308 $29.00 
An excellent collection of poems from round the world. A very impressive range and choice of inviting poems from a truly wide range of countries and cultures. (8 years up) KS



Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the World by Jacqueline K Ogburn & Chris Raschka (illus) hb 9780547428628 $24.99
This is a delight. All over the world people express their love for their children through endearments such as “angelito” (little angel in Spanish), “mon petit chou“ (little cabbage in French), “karapuz” (dumpling in Russian) and “habibi” (beloved in Arabic). This book contains a range of endearments in fourteen languages, with translation into English and also a suggested pronunciation guide. Children will enjoy giving their own suggestions of additional terms of endearments used by their families. Zany illustrations add to the pleasure. (4 – 9 years) KS

Wabi Sabi by Mark Reibstein & Ed Young (illus) hb 9780316118255 $28.99 
As soon as you discover this book opens vertically, you sense that it is a most unusual picture book. Wabi Sabi is a plain, brown cat who wants someone to explain the meaning of her name. No-one can really enlighten her, so she sets off to see a wise old monkey who lives on Mount Hiei. Through her journey, and the old monkey, she eventually comes to understand, and so do we, that wabi sabi is the concept of finding beauty in common, simple, ordinary, often imperfect things. The story is told in the tradition of haibun, where short prose passages set up the haiku that follows. At the end of the book there's a short history of the concept of wabi sabi, haiku and haibun, and translations of the decorative haiku that appear throughout the book in Japanese script. The wonderful collage illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the story. (7-11 years) MC

D is for Doufu: An Alphabet Book of Chinese Culture by Krach Maywan Shen & Hongbin Zhang (illus) pb 9781885008169 $17.00 
An exceptional book which gives an insight into the pictographic nature of the Chinese language through 25 Chinese words and phrases. It gives a fascinating historical and cultural background through well known words such as kungfu, feng shui or more complex words like “ai” meaning “love” where the explanation shows some of the cultural differences between Chinese and western ways of thinking. It also has wonderful illustrations in the style of Chinese folk art. (9 years up) KS

It’s a Book by Lane Smith hb 9781596436060 $23 pb 9780330544023 $15.00
In this delightfully playful, slightly subversive story, a book-loving monkey patiently shares the simple, unplugged pleasures of reading with a tech-savvy jackass. At first the jackass just doesn’t understand, wanting to know how do you scroll down? where’s your mouse? can it text? does it need a password? But once he settles down with the book in a comfy chair, he becomes engrossed, the hours fly by and the monkey can’t get his book back! (4 - 7 years) MC

The Lion Drummer by Gabrielle Wang & Andrew McLean (illus) pb 9780143303138 $12.95 
One of the popular Aussie Bites series. Lulu has a growing passion for playing the drum to accompany the lion dance. Through her perseverance, she succeeds in having lessons from a master drummer, quite an achievement since this is normally reserved for boys. Her enthusiasm and dedication are also rewarded when she is able to play in the Easter dragon parade. This is a lively and entertaining story telling us a lot about the traditions of the lion dance and lion drumming. (7 - 10 years) KS

Luke’s Way of Looking by Nadia Wheatley & Matt Ottley (illus) pb 9781921977725 $16.95 
Luke is a boy who sees things very differently from the other boys at school. When he visits an Art gallery he is thrilled to see a magical, brightly coloured world where he feels totally at home and he realises that he is not alone in the way he interprets the world. This picture book promotes creativity and uniqueness in artistic expression as well as introducing a range of styles. It also invites discussion about the way different people interpret art and gives us an insight into the way different people view the world. (8 – 13 years) KS 

My Village: Rhymes from around the World collected by Danielle Wright, illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, introduced by Michael Rosen pb 9781877467103 $19.99
Danielle Wright has chosen rhymes highlighting rhyme and rhythm and involving simple things that we do or hear or feel or sing. Some of the rhymes are written in English and also in the Romanised form of Japanese or Chinese … and then in Japanese or Chinese characters. We also get to see various scripts such as Persian, Japanese, Chinese and Russian. The illustrations are delightfully playful. A list of credits at the back of the book explains the derivation of the rhymes and the translators. An excellent collection from round the world. (4 – 7 years) KS

The Magic Brush: A Story of Love, Family and Chinese Characters by Kat Yeh & Huy Voun Lee (illus) hb 9780802721785 $31 
Jasmine and her grandfather Agong tell stories together and create a magical world where there are flying fish, rivers, mountains and dragons. He adds to the magic of the stories by showing her how to paint the Chinese characters for the places and creatures in this world. The brightly coloured illustrations cleverly depict the story and also show how the Chinese characters often look very like the objects and creatures they depict. (5 – 10 years) KS



How the world works


Who sank the Boat? by Pamela Allen pb 9780140509403 $14.95 
One of Pamela Allen’s picture books which deals with science concepts. The boat sinks further each time that donkey, then cow, pig and sheep get into the boat. The boat manages to stay afloat but finally sinks when tiny little mouse gets into the boat. The question is who sank the boat? It is wonderful to have a picture book demonstrating a science concept with such exuberance. (4 – 11 years) KS

Mr Archimedes' Bath by Pamela Allen pb 9780207172854 $14.99
Mr Archimedes is having a bath with various animals, as they get into the bath water splashes over the side. Again Pamela Allen has great fun in getting children to think about what is happening. (5 years up) KS

The Rabbit Problem by Emily Gravett hb 9781442412552 $32.00
How does 1+1 = 144? A family of rabbits soon supplies the answer in this funny story which also gives a warning about how quickly rabbit populations can expand! A marvelous book filled with details about how Chalk and Lonely Rabbit cope through the various seasons of the year with their fast expanding brood. (5 – 8 years) KS








How we organise ourselves


One is a Snail Ten is a Crab: A Counting by Feet Book by April Pulley Sayre and Jeff Sayre Illustrated by Randy Cecil pb 9781844281640 $16.95 Big Book 9780763647902 $44.95 
This is a counting book with a difference for it encourages children to add up and to see the differences between numbers and patterns of numbers and even to attempt simple multiplication. The snail with its one foot is used for one. A boy has two feet and so three is a person and a snail. Six is an insect, and seven is an insect and a snail. It gets more complicated at ten which is a crab and that means twenty is two crabs. Thirty is three crabs or ten people and a crab. And so on up to one hundred which is ten crabs or “if you're really counting slowly” one hundred snails. Great fun. (4 – 6 years) KS



Sharing the planet


Where the Forest meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker hb 9780688063634 $32.00 pb 9780744513059 $16.95 big book 9780744563016 $44.95 
This picture book is made from intricate collages. Set in the Daintree rainforest in northern Queensland, it shows a fragile rainforest area next to the sea, easily threatened by too much human activity. (7 years up)

The Hidden Forest by Jeannie Baker hb 9780744561630 $29.95 pb 9780744578768 $16.95 Big Book 9781844285181 $44.95
This picture book, also made from collage work, is set in the kelp forests of the oceans round Tasmanian. As usual the collages are made up of natural materials - rock, sand, wood, feathers and seaweed. This is an unusual look at life in a very different type of forest – a forest which is in the ocean. (8 years up)

Window by Jeannie Baker pb 9780744594867 $16.95 Big Book 9780744594874 $44.95
is a study of a changing view through the window of a house as more and more houses encroach on the countryside seen from the window. It is a textless picture book.



Belonging hb 9780744592276 $29.95 pb 9781406305487 $16.95 Big Book 9781406309416 $44.95 follows the same format as Window but it looks at an inner city suburb bleak in its drabness, ugly signs, graffiti and dilapidated houses and how over time the street is gradually transformed into a green inviting place where people can meet and enjoy their environment. It is also a textless picture book. (6 – 10 years) KS

Rivertime by Trace Balla hb 9781743316337 $24.99
Clancy is about to go on a trip down the Glenelg River in Victoria in a canoe with his bird watching Uncle Egg. The story is told through engaging illustrations and handwritten text with speech bubbles and notes on the many birds they see on their journey. At first Clancy misses his computer games and television but gradually settles down to the rhythm of the river and what it brings each day. This is an excellent book for environmental awareness or as David Suzuki says in his foreword “a delightful story about the joy of the outdoors.” The book contains through its illustrations and notes a wealth of information about birds and creatures of the Glenelg River. Australian (8 – 12 years) KS

The Waterhole by Graeme Base pb 9780140567533 $19.95 
At one level this beautifully illustrated picture book is a complex counting book. However for those who search the detail on its pages, it also has a strong message about the diversity of animal life round the world and the importance of water, as the level of the water in the waterhole gradually becomes less. (8 years up)

Uno’s Garden pb 9780143501305 $19.99
Also has an environmental theme. When Uno first lives in the forest there are so many different plants and animals but gradually, when a village and then a town develop, the plants and animals begin to disappear. This is, like so many of Base’s books, part-counting book, part-puzzle and part-storybook and of course there is always the search for the elusive Snortlepig. (5 – 9 years) KS

Oi! Get off our train by John Burningham pb 9780099853404 $17.99
This is a simple story with a powerful message about the threat to endangered animals. When a young boy dreams about going on a night train trip round the world with his small dog, he meets with endangered animals from round the world. They all ask if they too can get on the train as their lives are in danger. (3 – 5 years) KS

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman hb 9780060274719 $32.00 pb 9780064472074 $16.00 
Written like a collection of short vignettes, this book begins with a young girl from Vietnam planting a line of beans in the vacant lot near the apartment where her family lives in Cleveland, Ohio. The lot was full of trash and the snow had only just melted after the long, cold winter. She planted the beans in memory of her father who died when she was just a baby. This simple act gradually sparks a succession of plantings by different people of different ethnic backgrounds and with different reasons for planting. Even more - it is the spark which makes people clear away the garbage and begin what becomes a community garden in which plants are grown, harvested, exchanged and people begin to talk to each other and help each other. Each character is described through just one short chapter but many of them also appear in the stories of others so that we learn more about them and over the year, a sense of community grows. Simply written, absorbing and inspiring. (9 – 12 years) KS

Two Summers by John Heffernan & Freya Blackwood (illus) pb 9781865045979 $15.99 
The difference between two summers on an Australian farm is graphically illustrated but subtly told by a young boy pondering the difference between the last year when Rick came to stay on the farm and this year when the farm is stricken by drought. (6 – 10 years) KS

Bleak Boy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain by Steven Herrick pb 9780702250163 $14.95
Herrick handles the problems of three students at a very progressive school with sympathetic humour. Hunter appears to be a bully but his main problem is that his father has cleared out and left his mother and himself. Jesse worries too much about so many things, including the starving children in Africa, and Kate wants to save the whales. There are lots of problems in the world and this novel looks at kids who are struggling with knowing what to do with a number of them. These three kids succeed in getting together and helping each other and others. (9 – 12 years) KS

Out of the Way by Uma Krishnaswami & Uma Krishnaswamy (illus) pb 9788181467928 $13.00 
A simple lively story about a mango tree that grew in a small village and how people and animals made their way around it. As the tree grew bigger, birds nested in its branches as the road around the tree got busier with riders, wagons and cars. Riders called “Out of the Way Out of the way” as they rushed past. But as life rushed around the tree and the road got bigger so did the tree and it became a meeting place for people and animals under its spreading canopy. The bright illustrations show life in an Indian village and later, as there is more development, show a busy road with cars, buses and trucks. The book can be read as an allegory on the environment and development; showing how even though development rushes by there is still room for the natural world. (5 – 8 years) KS

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester hb 9780670880683 $29.95
This wonderful picture book is based on Alison Lester’s experiences when she travelled to Antarctica aboard the Aurora Australis. During that six-week voyage she kept an online diary and many children did drawings in response to her stories. The story is told through the eyes of 9-year-old Sophie, daughter of the captain, as she keeps a diary of their voyage to Antarctica and the week spent there before returning home. We learn about life on board; we meet the Mawson Station winter crew and learn about life in the Red Shed at Mawson Station; we see killer whales, Weddell seals, penguins, and many different kinds of icebergs. There’s a Glossary, and the maps on the endpapers are full of interesting facts. Highly recommended (7-10 years) MC 

Chelonia Green, Champion of Turtles by Christabel Matthingley pb 9781741751710 $14.95 
Chelonia Green is a young girl who lives on an island where turtles nest and who takes action to save them from fisherman’s nets. A book with an environmental message. (8 – 10 years) KS

Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker & Yoko Tanaka (illus) hb 9781423111870 $24.99 
This is the true story of how during the time of Mao Tse Tung, people were directed to make an enormous noise in order to scare away and kill all the sparrows. By doing this it was thought that the harvest would be much larger since the birds ate so much of the crop. In this fictional story a little girl Ming-Li is so upset by what is happening to the sparrows that she tries to save as many as she can. In spring, the villagers discover to their dismay that insects are eating all their crops and realize that previously it was the sparrows that ate these insects. (5 – 10 years) KS


The Bog Baby by Jeanne Willis & Gwen Millward (illus) pb 9780141500300 $16.99
This is a charming story about two little girls who go fishing at the beautiful magic pond in Bluebell Wood and find a little blue Bog Baby. He is so lovely that they take him home and make a beautiful home for him and care for him carefully but in the end he looks sicker and sicker. Their mother says he is a wild creature and can only live in the magic pond in Bluebell Wood and so they take him back. Many years later one of their own daughters sees little bog babies playing in the pond. It may sound a bit soppy but the bog babies are delightful and the story would appeal to little girls. It also has a very important environmental message with a touch of magic. (5 – 8 years) KS

Blueback: A Fable for all Ages by Tim Winton pb 9780143304333 $17.99 
An environmentally conscious story about Abel and his mother who live by the sea and whose lives revolve round the ocean. They endeavour to protect their bit of ocean and the creatures living in it from anything harmful. (9 years up) KS