ReadPlus is a collection of selected books and films arranged under themes. This web site provides lists, reviews and resources for librarians, teachers and parents about books for young people aged 5 to 18.
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Latest Review

Aug 16 2018

A first book of the sea by Nicola Davies

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Ill. by Emily Sutton. Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406368956
(Ages: 3-7) Highly Recommended. Themes: Poetry. Oceans. Emily Sutton is a whimsical, traditional illustrator, whose work is perfectly suited to this earthy, old-fashioned and hearty collection of poems. The author and illustrator have collaborated successfully in the past on Tiny and Lots, and have now put together a hardcover book with over fifty short poems, perfect as a first book of poems for young ones but will also interest junior primary children. The poems are about oceans and ocean life and celebrate the vastness, mystique and intrigue of the great blue world that surrounds us. The book is separated into four categories, as shown within a contents page: down by the shore (Catching a wave, Paddling, Shore crab), journeys (Limpets, Sailor's jig, Blue whale's map), under the sea (Longline fishing, Seaweed jungle, Shipwreck) and wonders (Rockpool, Albatross, Sea people). The poems are helpfully titled so you know what each is going to be about and can pick based on children's interests. They also seem carefully curated to include favourite aspects of young readers (shipwrecks, deadly sea animals, sharks, giant squid, etc.).
The illustrations, beautifully textured and intricately detailed, are perfect and because of the large format and the brevity of the poems, are full partners rather than just an afterthought. While the author and illustrator are English the book isn't identifiably so (except for the poem about big shopping and entertainment piers that are not a feature of Australian beaches). The poems evoke the feelings of being in and around the sea, such as the thrill of catching a wave or searching for shells, but they also provide fascinating information that reminds us of the power and long history of the world's oceans ("The sea has shaped them, rubbing and rolling, rolling and rubbing, for a thousand, thousand years"). They remind us of how to take care of our oceans ("Deadliest of all is the plastic we throw away that strangles, suffocates and poisons"). They inform us of the wisdom of those who live in harmony with the sea ("the old man draws the night sky out in pebbles to teach his grandson the pattern of the stars") and about how man has learned to deal with the wildness of the sea ("From one to twelve runs Beaufort's Scale, to tell ships when it's safe to sail"). There are a wide variety of poem styles, some rhyming but most not.
There are many conversation points within the book and some poems openly encourage children to engage with the book (in "Favourite dolphin" the only text asks "Choose just one? It's impossible to pick!" and shows a plethora of dolphins of different varieties). The big fold-out page for the large humpback whale tells the reader how to sing like a humpback. The last poem, "Happiness", is a reminder of the simple pleasures of the sea ("Sand in my shoes. Salt in my hair. A pebble in my pocket. The horizon in my eyes"). Simple, evocative, glorious.
Nicole Nelson



More Reviews

Aug 16 2018

Animal Ark: Puppy in peril by Lucy Daniels

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Orchard Books, 2018. ISBN 9781408354049
(Age: 6+) Recommended. Amelia and Sam are back with a new adventure. A poorly puppy is brought into Animal Ark, and nobody knows who it belongs to. Can Amelia and Sam find the owner and save the puppy? Amelia and Sam need all the help they can...
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Aug 16 2018

Jenna's truth by N.L.King

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Serenity Press, 2018. ISBN 9780648212768
(Age: Teens) Highly recommended. Themes: Cyberbullying. Suicide. Internet - Safety measures. Alcohol and teenagers. Peer pressure. Sexual behaviour. Popularity. Friendship. "Jenna's just a teenager who wants to fit in. The popularity that she...
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Aug 16 2018

Cat spies Mouse by Rina A Foti and Dave Atze

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Big Sky Publishing, 2018. ISBN 9781925675344
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Tolerance. Respect. "In this picture book Cat spies Mouse is a fun and interactive story about an arrogant and impatient cat who comes head-to-head with a humble and patient mouse. Mouse, although...
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Aug 16 2018

The relic of the blue dragon by Rebecca Lim

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Children of the Dragon bk1, Allen & Unwin, 2018, ISBN 9781760297367
(Ages: 9-12) Themes: Dragons. Magic. Thirteen-year-old Harley Spark's decision to take an old Chinese vase left outside the neighbouring auction house is life-changing, the catalyst for magic, mystery and...
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Aug 16 2018

Cyril and Pat by Emily Gravett

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Two Hoots Books (Macmillan), 2018. ISBN 9781509857272
(Ages: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Animals. Squirrels. Friendship. I love Kate Greenaway award winner, Emily Gravett's look at the world. Old hat (2018) shows a variance of the expression old hat as Harbert tries to please his...
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Aug 14 2018

Prize fighter, a novel by Future D. Fidel

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Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9780733639050
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. The first two 'Acts' of this book include the most shocking things I have read for a while. Not that the writing is graphic or extreme, the author avoids giving us details, just as his protagonist wants to avoid the...
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Aug 14 2018

Pixel raiders: Space fortress by Bu Bajo and Hex

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Ill. by Chris Kennett. Pixel Raiders book 4. Scholastic Australia, 2018. ISBN 9781760275686
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Read book 1, 2 and 3 before number 4. They have ten challenges to complete each section. Each book has a different section. Pixel raiders: Space fortress is a...
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Aug 14 2018

Every family is different by Maureen Eppen

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Ill. by Veronica Rooke. Serenity Press, 2018. ISBN 9780648230465
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Families. Difference. "Who's in your family? Some children live with their mum and dad, others live with their grandparents or foster parents. Some live in a big house, others live in a...
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Aug 14 2018

Barney by Catherine Jinks

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Ill. Stephen Michael King, Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781742996226
(Ages: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Dogs. Family. Humour. Verse. Cheeky Barney loves everything about the house. He loves the cat food, the greens secretly pushed down to him under the table, bacon, beans, biscuits, cake,...
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Aug 14 2018

The loyalty of chickens by Jenny Blackford

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Pitt Street Poetry, 2017. ISBN 9781922080745
(Ages: 12+) Poetry.
Anyone who has had chickens knows the fickle loyalty of chickens, how they will press around 'She Who Brings the Grain' whoever it may be, and the challenge of stepping forward without crushing 'worshippers'. Blackford...
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Aug 13 2018

After the lights go out by Lili Wilkinson

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Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760297299
(Ages: secondary) Highly recommended. Themes: Armageddon, Dystopian novel, Preppers. When Pru rides into town, to see if others in the small community of Jubilee have also lost their power, she does so with trepidation. Dad is at work, a mine...
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Aug 13 2018

The promise horse by Jackie Merchant

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Walker Books Australia, 2018. ISBN 9781760650568
(Age: 9+) Recommended. If you are a horse-lover you will relate to the story of Harry. Evocative moments of a growing relationship between a patient horse and a heart sore girl are shown as a grieving family try to ford the emotions left...
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Aug 13 2018

Maudlin Towers: Curse of the werewolf boy by Chris Priestley

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408873083
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. Themes: Horror, Werewolves, Teachers, Time travel. "Mildew and Sponge don't think much of Maudlin Towers, the blackened, gloom-laden, gargoyle-infested monstrosity that is their school. But when somebody steals the School...
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Aug 13 2018

Animal Ark: Kitten Rescue by Lucy Daniels

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Orchard Books, 2018. ISBN 9781408354148
(Age: 6+) Recommended. Amelia has just moved with her mum into Welford and she doesn't know anyone except her gran, who they are living with. Can she overcome her homesickness and help her new friend Sam to save the kittens with a little help from...
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Aug 13 2018

I love me by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina

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Fremantle Press, 2018. ISBN 9781925591637
(Age: Pre-school) Highly recommended. Board book. Themes: Individuality, Self-esteem. "I love the way my heart knows best. I am me. Who else would I be? I love me! A celebration of individuality and joyous self-esteem, in bouncy, rhythmic prose...
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Aug 09 2018

Hive by AJ Betts

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Fremantle Press, 2018. ISBN 9781760556433
(Ages: Secondary) Highly recommended. Themes: Future. Dystopia. Bees. Survival. The community is like a beehive, everyone has a role, no one knows what outside is like, and they all worship God, from whom water comes every day. The hierarchy is...
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Aug 09 2018

Moth by Isabel Thomas

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Ill. by Daniel Egneus. Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408889756
(Age: All) Highly recommended. Themes: Moths. Evolution. Adaptation. Camouflage. STEM. Industrial Revolution. Survival. Pollution. Hope. This amazing book shows within easily understood language supported by the most powerful of...
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Aug 09 2018

Girl on wire by Lucy Estela

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Ill. by Elise Hurst. Puffin, 2018. ISBN 9780143787167
(Age: 7+) Recommended. Themes: Confidence. Courage. Determination. The girl hesitantly watches from her perch in the upper reaches of the buildings. She is unsure and stands there for hours, just looking at what she must do. Finally...
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Aug 09 2018

The other wife by Michael Robotham

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Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9780733637933
(Ages: Senior secondary-Adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Crime. Thriller. Family relationships. Those familiar with Robotham's novels will be eager to read his next Professor Joe O'Lloughlin episode. It certainly does not disappoint! His writing flows...
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Aug 09 2018

Alpacas with maracas by Matt Cosgrove

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Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781743816349
(Ages: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Alpacas. Verse. Rhyme. Read aloud. We met Macca the alpaca in a book of the same name, where he had to deal with a bully, Al the shaggy alpaca. Now Al and Macca are the best of friends, and have decided to enter a...
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Aug 09 2018

Waterhole by Fiona Bell

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University of Qld Press, 2018. ISBN 9780702259999
(Ages: 11+) Sunny is home from boarding school - the first school holidays since her mother died in a single-car accident. She clashes with her stepfather and secretly blames Kevin, who is working alone on their farm in North...
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Aug 07 2018

Boy swallows universe by Trent Dalton

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Fourth Estate, 2018. ISBN 9781460753897
(Age: 16+) Recommended. Violence, gore and extreme language. Eli and August are two brothers growing up in 1980s Brisbane and for the most part, their world and daily life experience, depicted amazingly well by the author, is instantly recognisable...
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Aug 07 2018

Charlie by Ronojoy Gosh

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Puffin Books, 2018. ISBN 9780143785026
(Ages: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Lions. Appearance. Zoos. Illustrator of highly acclaimed picture book I'm Australian too (Mem Fox) and author of several picture books, Ronojoy has developed a wider use of his skills after many years in...
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Aug 07 2018

The mapmakers' race by Eirlys Hunter

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Gecko Press, 2018. ISBN 9781776572038
(Age: 8-11) Themes: Perseverance. Adventure. Map drawing. Eirlys Hunter's The mapmakers' race is set in a harsh mountainous environment where a new railway line needs to be built. The alternate world has mechanical horses and luggage-carrying...
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Aug 07 2018

Sleep by Kate Prendergast

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Old Barn Books, 2018. ISBN 9781910646229
(Age: 3-6) Recommended. Themes: Animals. Sleep. Kate Prendergast's non-fiction picture book uses vivid illustrations to show where animals rest and sleep. Her bright close-up paintings use a colour palette reminiscent of 1960's children's books...
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Aug 07 2018

The Red Fox Clan by John Flanagan

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Ranger's Apprentice: The Royal Ranger book 2. Random House Australia, 2018. ISBN 9780143785903
(Age: 12 - Adult) Recommended. Genres: Adventure and fantasy. This story is about a group of military men called The Rangers. In this group a Princess called Maddie is being trained...
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Aug 03 2018

Leave taking by Lorraine Marwood

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University of Queensland Press, 2018. ISBN 9780702260117
(Age: 11+) Recommended. Themes: Death, Leaving home, Family, Connections. "Toby and his mum and dad are leaving their family farm after the death of Toby's younger sister, Leah. Together, they sort through all their belongings and...
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Aug 03 2018

The strange fascinations of Noah Hypnotik by David Arnold

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Random House, 2018. ISBN 9780451480477
(Age: 15+) Highly recommended. Noah Oakman, is the classic anti-hero if ever there was one. To avoid the labour of time-consuming choices, he wears his own daily "uniform" - a t-shirt emblazoned with the name,"Bowie". He spends much of the book...
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Aug 03 2018

Minecraft: The Crash by Tracey Baptiste

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Century, 2018. ISBN 9781780897776
(Age: Teens) Bianca (the main character) is never one to plan ahead: she, like most people nowadays is 'act now deal with consciences later,' but on top of that she's a bit of a scatterbrain so most of the time it's 'act now have someone else deal with...
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Aug 03 2018

White rabbit red wolf by Tom Pollock

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781406378177
(Age: 14+) Recommended. Themes: Twins, Mental illness, Bullying, Genetic engineering, Spies, Murder Revenge, Deception. What starts off as a book about a boy with extreme anxiety issues quickly develops into a rollercoaster thriller. Peter Blankman...
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Aug 03 2018

Duck! by Meg McKinlay

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Ill. by Nathaniel Eckstrom. Walker, 2018. ISBN 9781925381535
(Age: 3-6) Recommended. Themes: Ducks, Farm Animals. Duck races around the farmyard, annoying all the farm animals by shouting 'Duck!' The noble, tall horse who is busy swishing his tail doesn't like Duck's rude interruption...
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Aug 03 2018

Stink: Hamlet and Cheese by Megan McDonald

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Ill. by Peter H. Reynolds. Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9780763691639
(Age: 8+) Themes: Humour, Shakespeare themes. Given the choice of staying home with his sister Judy, or going to Shakespeare camp, Stink takes the camp with his friend, Sophie of the Elves. She tells him that it will...
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Aug 02 2018

The boy at the back of the class by Onjali Q. Rauf

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Orion, 2018. ISBN 9781510105010
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Friendship. Refugees. Bullying. Resilience. Tolerance. This is a really enjoyable story about 4 young friends at school who are intrigued by the mystery surrounding the new boy in the chair at the back of the class....
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Aug 02 2018

It looks like this by Rafi Mittlefehldt

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Candlewick Press, 2018. ISBN 9781536200430
(Age: 15+) Recommended. The cover reflects LGTBQ+ themes in one glance - rainbow silhouettes of two youths. Thankfully, neither the title nor the writing defines the narrator and main character. Fifteen year old Mike has a gentle temperament. He...
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Aug 02 2018

Are you my bottom? by Kate and Jol Temple

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Ill. by Ronojoy Ghosh. Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN 9781760631642
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Bottoms. Animals. Research. When the little panda steps out of his bath, something is missing. There is a hole where his bottom should be, so he sets out to find it. The following pages...
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Aug 02 2018

The magic spell by Linda Chapman

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My secret unicorn series. Penguin, 2018. ISBN 9780241354223
(Age: 6-8) Themes: Horses. Pets. Fantasy. Linda Chapman's My secret unicorn series has been republished for a new generation of girls who love horses, unicorns and magic. These simple, easy to read stories are...
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Aug 02 2018

Unofficial Minecraft STEM lab for kids by John Miller and Chris Fornell Scott

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Quarry Books, 2018. ISBN 9781631594830
Apparently, 74 million people play Minecraft each month, one of those is Miss 12 who is now hooked on coding, and many of whom are in schools where the game is being used in many scenarios as part of the everyday learning experience. For some time,...
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