Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker

Every Saturday morning Lottie goes to her swimming class, but she is afraid to go into the water. Lottie watches the other children swimming and having fun, but Lottie has a secret. Only Lottie knows there is a shark hiding in the swimming pool that wants to eat her! 

One day Walter appears at the pool and Lottie discovers her secret friend loves books and  bubbles, eating fish fingers and playing hide-and-seek too. Most of all Walter loves to sing! When Lottie feels scared of the dark Walter quietly sings her to sleep…

Humbelly doo,
Lumbelly la,
Loopy loo!

Can her friend Walter help Lottie find her courage to jump in the pool so she can enjoy the pool party with her friends?

I was lucky to hear Anna Walker talk about Lottie and Walter. Anna’s idea for her story came from when she was little and her cousin told her there was a shark in her grandparent’s pool. When Anna was young she had lots of secret companions and decided a walrus was a perfect secret friend for Lottie. Anna wanted her walrus to sing and Walter’s song is one of her son Sam’s funny poems.

Anna’s ideas for stories come from her everyday life, travelling, her pets or even feelings and she paints or draws them in her visual diary. You can read more about how Anna created Walter and Lottie HERE.

Anna loves to bring her characters to life by making and knitting them and using them in stop motion videos. She is very talented, patient and humble.

Walter is wearing his party hat!

Can you tell that Anna loves drawing walruses?

Download your own Lottie and Walter activity pack and have fun creating Walter in different ways!

Thank you Anna, Lottie and Walter for reminding us that even though we might be scared at times, we all have the courage we need inside…

Happy reading! 

The Year of the Pig by Charles Hope

Pig was full of hope.
When the school race came around,
he was sure in his heart that this year
his luck would change.

Pig has never been a winner. He was last to finish tests, the last picked for games and even the last to have his birthday. This year he hopes it will be his lucky year and he will win the school’s Annual Running Race across the forest.

Pig’s classmates race off and leave him behind, but Pig calmly keeps making his way to the finish line. Jess Racklyeft’s playful water colour illustrations show each of his classmates getting side-tracked along the way through the forest. When Pig arrives at the finish line he is surprised to find himself the first one there and just a few hoof-steps from winning! However, Pig is worried about his missing friends and decides it is more important to find them and help them to the finish line. Today Pig is a winner!

At the back of the book you will find the animals in this story are based on the Chinese Zodiac.  Find your year of birth and read about the qualities of your animal. Does the description sound like you? What would have happened to you as an animal in the story?

In the Chinese calendar, 2019 is the Year of the Pig. Read the Chinese Zodiac description for a Pig. How does Pig demonstrate these qualities during the story? How is he a winner?

In this this gentle and heartwarming story, Pig reminds us to be hopeful, be true to ourselves, be a good friend and to keep a look out for others.

Happy reading!

Teacher Notes

Rainbow Bear by Stephen Michael King

I am a huge fan of author and illustrator Stephen Michael King whose illustrations dance with joy and creativity.  Stephen says that he loves to draw and dream and likes nothing better than when a small idea grows beyond his original imagining.

Stephen Michael King lives on an island and I love that he has added a few “Henry and Amy” wiggles and a bunch of squiggly “Milli” somethings to his house. You can find out more about Stephen HERE and the books he has created over 20 years HERE 

Rainbow Bear is a playful story set in a white snowy world. When Bear returns from a trip to the city with gifts for his family, he wakes the next morning to find himself looking rather different. Who are the secret artists that decorate his furry canvas with colourful swirls and dots and lines and circles each night while he’s asleep? When Bear finds a clue, he turns the tables on the little artists and they share a fun family day of colour and creativity before diving into the deep blue ocean, blowing bubbles and turning somersaults.

After reading Rainbow Bear, you might be tempted to colour in the black and white endpapers. (I think Stephen Michael King might love his readers to do just that!)
Why do you think the endpapers are black and white? Did you also notice that the endpapers are different? 

Did you know Stephen Michael King often includes a little red bird in his picture books (you can see a picture of it on his website). I wonder if you can find his bird in Rainbow Bear

“I love colouring outside the lines – and that made creating ‘Rainbow Bear’ a whole lot of fun.” (Stephen Michael King)

Happy reading and creating!

Teacher notes

The House on the Mountain by Ella Holcombe

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.

Mamie by Tania McCartney

We know her as May Gibbs, the creator of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, but to her family, she was known as ‘Mamie’ (pronounced May-me). This year is the 100th birthday of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (1918-2018).

In her exquisite picture book, Tania McCartney brings a young Mamie to life in a magical modern day setting.

Mamie is a little girl with a big imagination who ‘could draw as soon as she could walk’. Her world is filled with fairy friends and singing and dancing in made up plays until her life is turned upside when her family ‘moves to the bottom of the world’. Accompanied by her Scotty dog, Mamie explores and draws her strange new home of ‘shimmering bushland’, but Mamie misses her magical friends until one night she dreams of a little fairy with a gumnut on his head…a bush fairy.

Like me, I know that you will be spending a lot of time pouring over the many tiny details in Tania’s vibrant illustrations that lovingly capture the essence of May Gibbs as a little girl and celebrate the power of imagination. Mamie is one of my favourite books this year!

I was very lucky to win a copy of Mamie. Thank you, Tania! 

You can download some activities for Mamie here

Happy reading!

Ho! Ho! Ho! There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake by Hazel Edwards

Our roof is noisy!
Thump!
Thump!
Thump!

Our favourite hippopotamus is back and this time he’s having lots of fun getting ready for Christmas in There’s a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Christmas Cake. A perfect book to add to your Christmas collection!

Deborah Niland’s classic illustrations show hippo busy writing his present list (that’s a LOT of cakes), having messy fun icing his large Christmas cake, doing a special Christmas cake dance, some Christmassy dressing up and singing Carols by Cakelight. The little boy in the house below is also excitedly getting ready for Christmas with his family and has made a scrumptious Christmas present for his hippopotamus friend.

What does your family do to get ready for Christmas? Do you have a favourite activity?

There are lots of fun Christmas activities for you to download in this Hippo Christmas Activity Pack

Hazel Edwards wrote her first hippopotamus book There’s A Hippopotamus on Our Caravan Roof Eating Cake in 1980 and this is the seventh book about her much loved hippopotamus. These days, Hazel is often called ‘The Hippo Lady’! 

Do you have a favourite hippopotamus book by Hazel?

Happy Christmas reading! 

Beware The Deep Dark Forest by Sue Whiting

“You must beware the deep, dark forest,”
Rosie told Tinky.
“Never, ever go in there.”

Rosie has never gone into the deep, dark forest, but when her puppy Tinky runs off into the forest she has to find him. 

“But the deep, dark forest is thick with danger,” warned Rosie’s Grandma. “Carnivorous plants they say.”
And venomous snakes,” said Rosie’s dad. “So I’ve heard.”

Would you go into the deep, dark forest?

Rosie can’t leave Tinky lost and alone in the dangerous forest and goes on a quest to rescue him. She needs to have courage as the forest becomes deeper, darker and muddier. Along the way, Rosie has to bravely sneak past a big, bristly brute, find a way to cross a place that is dizzily, dangerously, dreadfully deep and face a menacing, monstrous, muddy creature to save Tinky.

Sometimes like Rosie we don’t know how brave and clever we can be.

Sue Whiting has written a story that is like a fairytale. It is lots of fun to read aloud with its repetition and descriptive words, especially when Rosie stands up to the muddy creature at the end! Can you find ways Sue has used words to make her writing scary, exciting and fun? 

Annie White‘s earthy water colour illustrations take you into the forest with Rosie and often as the reader you can see things in the forest that Rosie can’t see. Can you see any carnivorous plants and venomous snakes or spot the shadow of the menacing, monstrous muddy creature? What has been printed on the purple endpapers, can you explain why?

If you like scary stories that are fun and going on quests where you can be a hero, then Beware The Deep Dark Forest is just the book for you!

Happy reading!

Teacher notes by Sue Whiting

Why I Love Summer by Michael Wagner

There are four seasons in a year, and they’re all AWESOME, but only one gets to be summer.

We are getting closer to summer here in Australia and along with Mitch, lots of people LOVE summer. In summer the sun shines, the sky is blue, days are longer and for a while everyone in the family is on holidays at the same time.

Summer is time to put on your t-shirt, cap and sunscreen and spend hours outside playing with friends, riding your bike, epic backyard cricket games, water fights, doing bombs in the pool and going nuts in the sun. There’s also Mitch’s favourite time of the day, Ice-cream O’Clock and family barbecues when you can stay up later than school nights because there are hardly any rules in summer. Mitch and his family along with many other families in summer go camping at the beach where everyone is happy and there’s so much to do…and Mitch can be with his family all the time.

Michael Wagner (author of Why I Love Footyreminds of what we love about summer in such a fun way. What are some of your favourite things to do in summer? Ask your mum and dad or even your grandparents what they liked to do in their summer holidays when they were kids. What was their favourite ice cream? 

Tom Jellet‘s illustrations are a celebration of our Australian summer and capture in colourful detail the ways our summer is unique. Take a close look at the ice creams on the endpapers, what dad’s cooking on the barbie, the fun summer activities, and I’m sure walking down that sandy path and catching a glimpse of the beach will be familiar to many of you.

You can also download a fabulous Why I Love Summer Activity Pack and have fun inventing an icy-pole, writing a holiday postcard or spotting things in the beach picture like a one-legged seagull and even Santa Claus!

Thank you Michael and Tom for such a fun book to remind us of why we love summer and wish it could last forever…

Happy reading!

The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro

The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro is a gentle story of a whale whose enchanting song brings happiness and hope, magic and wonder to the ocean and its inhabitants, but whale is lonely and nothing can fill his empty heart.

 Anna’s whimsical water colour illustrations will take you swimming into the depths of the ocean through seagrass taller than a forest, past seabeds, through fathoms and over dreaming turtles and forgotten treasure and it will warm your heart when whale’s wish is finally heard from far away.

Anna has used water colour, ink and pencil to create her illustrations. Open the book to see the full page front cover and have fun finding the many colourful sea creatures and plants throughout the story. This beautiful story is like a poem so read it aloud and let the rhythm of the words carry you along just like the ocean carried whale’s song…

Do you have a favourite illustration or sentence?

Watch this video if you’re interested in learning more about why whales sing.

Happy reading!

Pig the Grub by Aaron Blabey

Pig the Pug is back!  Eww…don’t get too close!

Pig isn’t just the world’s greediest Pug, he’s the dirtiest too. He spends his days rolling in mud, playing with unspeakable muck and leaking smells that make neat and clean Trevor’s eyes water. Personal hygiene is not a priority for Pig the Pug. 

So BATHTIME was called!
‘You stinky old mutt!

You need a good clean
from your ears to your butt!’

The last thing Pig the Pug wants is a bath! Trevor waits patiently in his shower cap as Pig ducks and weaves and doubles back trying to avoid the dreaded soapy water. Pig has a plan…

They watched as Pig gloated.
They watched as Pig crowed.

Definitely not an idea for you to try at home!!


Can you see Pig’s plan?
What do you think will happen?

Happy reading!