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 21 2018

The happiness box by Mark Greenwood

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Ill. Andrew MacLean, Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781925081381
(Ages: 6+) Highly Recommended. Themes: War. Prisoners of war. Children in war. World War Two. Changi Prison (Singapore). Sgt Griffiths (Griff) was a prisoner of war, detained by the Japanese for three years in Selarang Barracks and then the notorious Changi Prison on Singapore Island, the aftermath of a terrible defeat for the Australian Imperial Force in 1942.
Here he watched the children and women of Singapore marched into the prison and as Christmas approached he wondered what sort of Christmas these children would have. He and other prisoners than used every scrap they could find to make presents for the children, and Griff began to write a story, one that encapsulated hope and happiness. The story revolved around three animals and another of his peers, Captain Greener, illustrated the book. But when it was inspected by the Japanese General, he rejected it saying it held secret messages. It was to be destroyed. Another of the prisoners took it to get rid of it, instead burying it and at the end of the war it was dug up, a little worse for wear, but impressive in its hope for peace and happiness for the imprisoned children.
It was published in 1947 and again in 1991, the original now held at the State Library of New South Wales, where it was part of a touring exhibition in 2007.
Greenwood's story of this book is inspirational, showing the survival mechanisms of people entrapped by war. Despite their appalling situation, the men were involved in helping the children of the camp, offering them solace and hope in the midst of unimaginable suffering and despair. That the book survived is another story that resonates hope, and it has become an icon in its own right.
MacLean's pen and watercolour illustrations rely on a palette of browns and greys, ochres and greens to reflect the sombre, dreary nature of everyday life in the prison. There is no variance, no colour, no hope, except for the toys being made and the colours used to illustrate the book. The contrast is outstanding and underscores the belief that life will go on, that colour will return.
Behind the story of the book, readers will see the life led by the POW's and the women and children within these walls. MacLeans' illustrations realistically evoke the times with drawings of the men lying on their bamboo bunks, or watching over the walls towards the barracks, or being taken away to assured death working on the Burma Railway. Biographies of the author and the illustrator of The happiness box are given at the end, alongside a brief history of the book itself, and a bibliography encouraging readers to further research the story.
This book offers a fresh approach for classes to look at Australia's involvement in World War Two and the affects of war on children.
Fran Knight



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Aug 21 2018

Secret Seven: Mystery of the skull by Pamela Butchart

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Hachette, 2018. ISBN 9781444941531
(Age: 7+) "When Peter discovers an old skull hidden in his bedroom, it's time for an urgent meeting of the Secret Seven. Setting off to investigate, the friends see a gigantic hole in the grounds of a local hotel. Could there be any connection between...
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Aug 21 2018

The fierce country by Stephen Orr

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Wakefield Press, 2018. ISBN 9781743055748
(Age: 14+) Recommended. True stories.
Forget the spiders, snakes and crocodiles, the true danger of Australia is its fierce heart, the harsh country that has continually challenged those who dare venture here. Stephen Orr's collection of...
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Aug 21 2018

Alpha pups! and Pup and down by Sophie Beer

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Little Hare Books, 2018, ISBN 9781760501952, 9781760501808
(Ages: 2+) Themes: Dogs. Dog Breeds. Opposites. Sophie Beer's fun board books focus on all things canine. With a bright bold palette, her lively puppy characters and everyday settings are just right to share with toddlers and...
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Aug 21 2018

The hunter, and other stories of men by David Cohen

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Transit Lounge, 2018. ISBN 9781925760064. Short stories.
(Age: Adult) Ibis have so flourished on a building site that they have become like a plague, causing problems for the project. Henrik the site manager aka 'the hunter' has to come up with a solution. After spending all day, every...
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Aug 20 2018

Things my Pa told me by Anthony Bertini

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Ill. by Jonathan Bentley. Little Hare, 2018. ISBN 9781760501426
(Ages: 3+) Highly recommended. Themes: Fathers and sons, Fathers' Day, Generations. An inviting stroll through an Italian village and surrounding countryside sees three generations walking and sharing stories. At first the...
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Aug 20 2018

Grandpa's space adventure by Paul Newman

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Ill. by Tom Jellett. Puffin Books, 2018. ISBN 9780143785569
(Ages: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Humour, Space, Camping, Fear of the dark. Following the warm hearted tale, "Grandpa's big adventure" (2016) comes another just as funny, warm and encompassing when his grandson reveals a...
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Aug 20 2018

My old man he played rugby by Peter Millett

cover imageIll. Jenny Cooper, sung by Jay Laga'Aia. Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781775435280
(Ages: 4+) Recommended. Themes: Song, Rugby, Sing a long, Rhyme, Fathers and sons. I cannot get the tune of 'This old man' out of my head after reading and then listening to the CD inside the front cover of this...
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Aug 20 2018

Hide and seek with grandpa by Ed Allen

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Ill. by Nicky Johnston. Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781742765426
(Ages: 3+) Recommended. Themes: Grandparents, Family, Play, Lions. Younger readers will immensely enjoy spying out the little lion as it hides form Grandpa during their outing in the park. The two go for a picnic, Grandpa...
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Aug 20 2018

My Dad is a Robot by Matt Cosgrove

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Koala Books Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781742993256
(Ages: 3-6) Themes: Fathers, Robots. 'It's PRETTY FUN having a robot for a dad! Even if he's an older model.'
Matt Cosgrove's imaginative picture book "My Dad is a Robot" is jam-packed with dad jokes, robot comparisons and loads of...
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Aug 19 2018

The mulberry tree by Allison Rushby

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Walker Books, 2018. ISBN 9781760650202
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Supernatural, Friendship, Depression (mental health). When Immy (short for Imogen) and her family, dad, a doctor on sabbatical and mum a cardiologist working for a year at Cambridge, look for a place to live,...
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Aug 19 2018

The dog with seven names by Dianne Wolfer

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Random House, 2018. ISBN 9780143787457
(Age: 9-14) Highly recommended. Themes: World War 2 - Australia, Dog stories. Dianne Wolfer's "The Dog with seven names" is set against the backdrop of World War 2 in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia. Creatively told from a...
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Aug 19 2018

Brontide by Sue McPherson

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Magabala Books, 2018. ISBN 9781925360929
(Age: 14+) Themes: racism, bullying, peer pressure, indigenous youth. Sue McPherson's "Brontide" is a series of interviews of 4 young teenage boys living in Taralune, Queensland.  Sue acknowledges that her interview technique was "at times,...
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Aug 19 2018

Maximus by Steve Heron

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Ill. by Tash Macfarlane. Serenity Press, 2018. ISBN 9780648146612
(Age: 10+) Highly recommended. Themes: Animal-human relationships, Friendship, Bullying. "Mitch says stuff sucks. His life has been turned upside down since his dad started working FIFO at the mines.
From a messy...
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Aug 19 2018

Professor Astro Cat's human body odyssey by Dr Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman

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Flying Eye Books, 2018. ISBN 9781911171140
(Age: 8+) Highly recommended. "Professor Astro Cat's human body odyssey" is big, colourful, engaging and full of facts. Each double page offers interesting facts and illustrations about the different parts and systems of the body. Readers can...
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Aug 19 2018

Baby's first bank heist by Jim Whalley

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Ill. by Stephen Collins. Bloomsbury, 2018. ISBN 9781408891193
(Ages: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Animals, Babies. Utterly crazy and equally hilarious, this is the tale of an errant infant, Frank, immediately distinctive in a black and white Babygro. An ardent animal lover, he has an...
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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...
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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 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 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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