The Snow Wombat by Susannah Chambers and illustrated by Mark Johnson

Where does snow fall?

The answer is everywhere!


Open The Snow Wombat by Susannah Chambers and go on a wintry walk in the Australian Alpine to discover how the environment changes when it is covered in snow.

The young reader will delight in the map drawn on the end pages and the names of the different places the wombat visits. You can spend time searching each illustration drawn beautifully by Mark Jackson to find different Australian animals who also live in the snow and the various plants and trees that can survive the freezing temperatures.

Repetition and rhyme have been used throughout the story, encouraging young readers to read along and guess which word might come next.

We loved reading this story and had a lot of fun re creating the map, spotting feral and Australian animals and making our own puppets to reenact the story.

The Snow Wombat was SHORT-LISTED: CBCA Book of the Year, Early Childhood, 2017.

So what can you do with this book?

  1. Draw your own map of the story, this will encourage skills of recount. You can also create your own map of where another Australian animal might go.
  2. Discuss the different animals on each page. Which ones are Australian animals? Which are feral animals? Livestock? Endangered?
  3. Learn about wombats and how they live.
  4. Could you write another story about another type of weather?


Sleepy the sloth by Jan Latta

Come on an adventure with me and learn about my life in the jungle

Sleepy is an adorable sloth. Sleepy the sloth and his friends live in the trees of the Central and South American tropical rainforests and Jan Latta has beautifully captured these animals in their natural habitat.

Jan Latta has produced the True to life series so she can educate children about endangered animals through a captivating story told through photographs taken of these animals in their natural habitat.

In this story – Sleepy the Sloth, we learn about what Sleepy does throughout the day, what he looks like and why, how he eats and the different things he does to live and survive. These facts are all learnt through a lovely story with accompanying photographs.

However, children aren’t just told the story of sleepy the sloth – they are also given some great facts and maps along with comprehension questions. There is a map, some fun craft activities and even a colouring in page.

We all want our children to learn about endangered animals but we want them to enjoy learning about them – and this book does just that. When children (and adults) do things rather than just listening or reading, they remember better.

After reading Sleepy the Sloth parents and teachers can use these activities to have more in depth conversations about how we can help to take Sloths off the endangered list!

Jan Latta is passionate about educating people about animals who are endangered and spends a lot of time researching her subjects before photographing them. Not only has she created books but there are accompanying videos for her books too so children can see the animal and how it moves.

Sleepy the Sloth will not only engage your young reader but it will also inspire them to think of ways that they can make a difference in this animal’s life – even if it is on the other side of the world.

You can check out Jan’s work on her blog and purchase one of her many engaging creations

Book review, Junior Fiction, literacy

Ruby Lane by R.J.Simon

A fast paced adventure story that you won’t want to put down – Ruby Lane by R J Simon is a brand new quirky tale for young readers.

Ruby, our main adventurer is a wonderfully creative thinker – who just can’t stop thinking! She has a wild imagination and would much rather be up through the night  creating things instead of sleeping!

Luckily it is school holidays and Ruby is off to her Grandma’s for a week of excitement. She hops on the ferry but due to her late night antics she nods off until the ferry pulls into the wharf near her Grandma’s home. Ruby begins her walk but soon discovers a cat that talks like a pirate and talking lemons – certainly not the usual things she finds on the way to grandmas!  The pirate cat convinces her to help him return a very special book to the great Poet Gerry and she agrees.

From here the reader is taken on a very magical, fun, weird and crazy adventure all over the island. She meets many intriguing creatures along the way as she helps Pirate Cat on his quest.

Ruby Lane is a very fast paced book and although Ruby is at first portrayed as someone who can’t slow down, she is a very clear thinker who is not only brave but kind.

You’ll love the quirkiness of Pirate Cat – but be warned he does talk in pirate lingo throughout the whole novel so for those of you who don’t think you can handle more than one ‘me hearty’ you might struggle a bit.

Only someone with a vivid imagination and fun filled ideas could create a book like this. R.J.Simon has used so many different ideas to bring this story, the magical land and it’s characters to life.

I had lots of fun reading this story and was endlessly surprised by what happened next!

So what else can you do with this story?

  1. Read it out loud – see if any children can relate to Ruby – her creative thinking and endless imagination. Recall a time when you had a wonderful idea that wouldn’t let you sleep!
  2. Learn how to speak like a pirate. Wednesday 19th September is International talk like a pirate day!
  3. Draw a map of the island. What do you think it looks like?
  4. Ruby meets so many amazing characters in this story. Do they have anything in common with each other? Do they all have anything in common with Ruby?

There are many more activities you can do with this book so head over to R J Simon’s website and have a look around: http://www.booksbyrjsimon.com

Book review, eco living, Environmental books, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

Chip by Kylie Howarth

Feeling hungry?

Wanna chip?

We’ve all been there – sitting down by the ocean about to snack on a hot chip when swoop – out of your hand that delicacy is taken away by none other than a seagull.

Chip by Kylie Howarth is a fun book that tells the tale of a seagull and his friends who are banned from the local fish and chip shop.

The seagulls – so used to having food on tap are in distress and hungry! That is until Chip – our feathery hero comes up with an idea that is going to save the seagulls from impending starvation.

You’ll have to read this book to believe that seagulls aren’t just those pesky birds who hassle you for your hot chips but rather creative, clever and charming friends.

Kylie Howarth also has left a fantastic underlying message – seagulls aren’t meant to eat chips and if we all tidied up our mess, put it in the bin or even took the leftovers home perhaps these scavengers would hassle us as much.

Many ocean birds do become sick when they eat too much of this unhealthy food and forget how to hunt for themselves. Unknowingly many of us are creating these creatures to behave the way they do by our simple attitude of not thinking about where our rubbish of left overs go.

This book was shortlisted for the CBCA picture book of the year – and it was very well deserved!

So what can you do with this book?

  1. Think about where your food scraps go. Do you have a compost bin? Worm farm or chooks? If you don’t how can you minimise food waste?
  2. How can local councils ensure that people start to think about where they place their rubbish?
  3. What do seagulls usually eat and where do they usually live when not around humans?
  4. How can local councils and people help to stop local birds from pestering people?
  5. Kylie used the phrase – no fat chips, skinny chips, soggy chips, sandy chips, crunchy little bits of chips or even spicy chilli-dipped chips’ a few times in this story – why do you think she did this and how did it tie the story together at the start?
  6. How did Kylie’s illustations give you more detail about the story?
      1. Craft idea – We made our own hot chips using an old newspaper and some scrap paper we coloured in yellow! We then made a seagull out of toilet roll and the shop owner too. We then performed the book in our own words – lots of fun and a great way to build comprehension skills.

      Book review, Parent tips, picture books, Teacher tips and resources

      The Riverboat Postman by Joanne Karcz

      We all love receiving mail.

      The anticipation of what is going to be inside the letter box, the rumble of the motorbike or the knock on the door.

      But what if you didn’t live near a road? 

      Then the Riverboat Postman will be the one to deliver your mail! 

      In Joanne Karcz’s second picture book, she has captured the magic of the Riverboat Postman through rhyme and storytelling.

      Told through the eyes of two young sea farers, the reader is taken on a journey up the Hawkesbury River, past the houses, national parks and friendly dogs that dot the landscape.

      We meet the friendly driver and the residents – human and their dogs, who live along the river and rely on the Riverboat Postman for not only mail but other supplies they might need.

      The Riverboat Postman is a real boat and it does head out every day. It has been delivering mail to properties for over 100 years and tourists are able to take part in this journey too.

      Joanne has brought this journey to life and made this experience accessible to those who may not know it exists. She has described the scenery as it exists and the people who make the Hawkesbury  a wonderful place to live.

      Joanne’s knack for rhyme makes this journey even more fun for the young reader and the soft pastels used by Elizabeth Irvin show the natural colours of the river the surrounds.

      There is even a map in the book that you can follow to work out where the boat travels from Brooklyn to Marlow Creek!

      The Riverboat Postman is a lovely sing-song book to read out loud or perhaps even sing, so give yourself some time to check this book out.

      Joanne has self published this book again so head over to her website or perhaps take yourself on a journey on the Riverboat Postman!





      Book review, eco living, Environmental books, nature play, Parent tips, picture books, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

      The secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton

      Do love reading myths, legends and folk tales?

      Have you ever wondered how those tales came to be?

      The secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton is an adventurous folktale in which a young girl named Erin is on a mission to find out more about Black Rock.

      With determination, every day she attempts to stow away on her mother’s fishing boat, always getting sniffed out by her dog until the day she outsmarts him and sails off hidden aboard.

      As the boat sails on, a fog descends and through that Black Rock emerges. Erin, too busy staring at the towering rock doesn’t hold on tight enough and a wave knocks her overboard.

      She sinks deeper and deeper but she soon discovers that the Black Rock is in fact a living thing – and it saves her life.

      Erin then realises how alive with life Black Rock is and is determined to save it from being destroyed by the fishing village.

      Will Erin succeed in teaching the adults how important this rock is to their ocean? And how much they need this if they are to continue to fish for food and income?

      The illustrations are filled with colour and the detail in each page will encourage you to look deeper into each picture. The full page spreads enlighten and the circular images – give the reader different viewpoints on what is going on.

      The Secret of Black Rock is a tale which will make you think about those inanimate objects that you might think do nothing. Take the time to have a closer look and see what life, no matter how small, lives there and how it plays a role in the world around it.


      So what else can you do with this book?


      • Explore life underwater. Take the time to note which animals are drawn into this story. Can you name them all? Which ones would you like to learn more about?
      • Explore creatures that live on or around rocks in the ocean. Why do they all live here? Where else might these living things live?
      • Have there been any incidences where rocks have been removed from the ocean and therefore affected the life that lives around or on it?
      • How can we help others to become aware of smaller ocean plants and animals and the important role they play?


      • How does the design of this book – and the title – capture your attention. (Look at the  titles, layout of the front and back cover and the inside cover pages. )
      • Compare this story to graphic novels. How does this reflect the style of a graphic novel and how would this story be told differently if it were just a story?
      • There are many adjectives in this story – find as many as you can.
      • What is a folktale? Myth? Explore and share some.


      global guardian project, Parent tips, Picture books that address current issues, Teacher tips and resources

      Global Guardian Project: Australia

      Created by Beth Johnson from Kid’s Mind Body Spirit, this capsule gives your family some wonderful insight into Australia and it’s natural beauty.

      In this capsule you can learn more about opals, gum trees and the Great Barrier Reef.

      The Great Barrier Reef is discussed in depth and your children will be inspired to learn more about this natural wonder through the colouring in pages, an online adventure story and some tips on how you can help the reef to survive.

      There are some book links in the capsule but you can also check out these two books which I have reviewed here:

      One less Fish

      Coral Sea Dreaming

      These capsules are aimed at both adults and children so don’t be put off by all the information – use it as a tool for yourself to teach your children through discussion and storytelling. Children can learn a lot through watching videos and documentaries but when we talk and listen to each other we can learn so much more.

      The Global Guardian Project is a great initiative run by Rebecca Lane and something you can be a part of too.

      If you are interested in giving it a go sign up for one capsule and see if you like it.

      I am offering a 10% discount with my code GGPVAnessa.

      So what are you waiting for – inspire yourself, inspire your children, inspire your family and together we can make the world a better place for now and the future.


      Creativity, My creations

      Why do we need magical worlds

      After reading an article or two I have started to think about the importance of magic in our lives and how magical worlds in books can help us to cope with every day activities.

      When we are aware of magical worlds we can remember back to how a character coped when faced with mountain trolls, what the character did when they really just wanted to go home or how they felt when faced with a place that was completely different to the one they knew.

      Magical worlds aren’t only in longer novels, they can also be found in picture books and both types of magical worlds are just as wonderful as each other.

      Inside these magical worlds are strong characters, whether they be frightening or relatable – many have to ‘toughen up’ in order to cope with the dangers and differences they have to experience every day.

      Experiencing others daily lives is important to not only to build empathy but to also build a greater understanding of ourselves. I’m sure if you sit down and think about it, there are always characters in books that spring to your mind at different occasions.

      Magical worlds spark ideas, they arouse different feelings and the inspire us to think beyond our daily lives – they help us to wonder what life could be like if something out of the ordinary happens.


      So what magical books are you going to read today?

      Continue reading “Why do we need magical worlds”

      eco living, Environmental books, global guardian project

      New Zealand: Global Guardian Project E-capsule


      Interested in learning more about New Zealand? Then this might just be the capsule that starts you and your family on your journey to becoming a Global Guardian.

      I’ve been to New Zealand but what was contained in this e-capsule opened my eyes up to many things I didn’t know about this beautiful place.

      As you work through this capsule you will learn about endangered animals who are being cared for by conservationists and scientists, learn about the traditional culture of this island which still plays a large role in modern society and some modern day change makers.

      Your children will love the colouring in pages that support the written information about  the yellow eyed penguin, guided meditation to help children learn to be still and appreciate the sounds around them and within themselves and a simple action challenged to make you think more about the single use of balloons.

      Children will delight in the images and stories of other young change makers and perhaps inspire you to jump online to see more of New Zealand or perhaps even a trip there one day.

      The e-capsules created by the Global Guardian Project are written to inspire global awareness. We all need to be aware of who also inhabits the planet with us and that we can al make small and meaningful differences to make the world a better place for all.

      If you think you would like to join the tribe go to their website:


      And use my discount code for 10% off. GGPVanessa

      You won’t regret it and your children will love it!

      animals, Book review, Teacher tips and resources

      Echidnas can’t cuddle

      But with my spikes, I can’t even hug my very own mother.


      Poor Eric.


      He is covered in spikes and they are getting in the way of his need to cuddle. All he wants to do is cuddle someone and feel the joy of a warm embrace but all the other bush animals are too frightened of his spikes.

      Penny the platypus cries, koalas are cuddly up high in the tree and rosellas with all their feathers can put their wings around eachother at any time. Poor little Eric.

      Upset with his situation, Eric runs away and then runs even faster when a snake tries to bite him, bees try to stng him and an eagle tries to snatch him.

      Luckily he has spikes – those spikes that he hates and wishes he never had – to save him.

      Eric learns to love his spikes and comes to realise that even if he can’t give a hug to someone he loves, he can give them a kiss.

      Eric the echidna is quite the loveable character in this rhyming picture book. He displays many characteristics that children will relate to  – jealousy, fear, independence, lack of self esteem,  love for others and love for himself. Echidnas can’t cuddle is a great story to use to talk about self acceptance and learning to love the different things about each person.

      Lauren Merrick’s images have been created through collage and print and are wonderful to look at, talk about and wonder how they were created to give the feeling of texture and life.

      Echidnas can’t cuddle was shortlisted for the 2017 Environment awards because of the way it raises awareness about these spiky creatures, its habitat and the other animals that live around it.


      So what else can you do with this book?



      1. Find out more about echidnas! Where do they live and are they endangered?
      2. What types of animals are echidnas and who else belongs in this group?
      3. What are the spikes made out of ? What else can you find out about these spikes?

      Creative writing and drawing

      1. Write a story about another animal that wants a cuddle but can’t.
      2. Choose another Australian animal and write about a journey it might go on in order to find something positive about itself.
      3. Re create an image of the Australian bush using the techniques Lauren Merrick has.

      Self awareness

      1. Link back to self – what do you love about you? What do you worry about? How can you help yourself to be proud of everything you are?