My latest book review for Writing NSW: Bubbay’s Desert Adventure

by Josie Wowolla Boyle, Illustrated by Fern Martins

‘Bubbay’s Desert Adventure’ is a picture book aimed at ages 5+.

It begins with a very lonely little boy, Bubbay, who lives in the outback – his only company are his goats, his only friends are the stars above.

Acclaimed storyteller, Josie Wowollla Boyle takes readers on a heartfelt and mysterious journey into the Australian desert.

Illustrator Fern Martins gorgeously captures the magic of the desert, and effortlessly highlights Josie’s story that combines the spiritual world with the natural world. 

The story begins with rich rusty earth dotted with vibrant green tufts of desert grass where Bubbay visits an old lady who lives down on the plain. He often traded her goats milk for chicken eggs, and in the meantime, ‘Mrs. Timm’s came to love Bubbay.

Bubbay loved his friends the stars. One night he wished and wished on one of his star friends for a family of his own to love. A giant star shimmers and flashes across the sky, promising Bubbay a surprise the next day if he finds five special things – a stone, an egg, a seed, a feather, and a shell. A shell in the desert? Bubbay doesn’t know where to begin. But grandma Gubarlee is there to help and so his adventure begins.

Martins uses deep purples and indigos for much of Bubbay’s journey, which is set in the night, but the palette is far from dark. Look closely and you’ll find Martins uses a myriad of colours, carefully blended to bring depth, beauty and life to each part of the story. Stars, fires, and Bubbay’s warm skin glows throughout the pages, and each five special item Bubbay finds along the way bring a rainbow of colours to the story – a stone from Wise Mother Kangaroo ‘that shone like the sun’, ‘the greenest of Old Man Emu’s handsome eggs’, a feather from Bower Bird’s palace, ‘the colour of the sky’, a seed the colour of fire from Tricky Crow, and finally a shell given by Garbarlee, ‘the colour of the moon.’

The star was pleased, it ‘tingled and glowed,’ happy to have the five pretty things on it.

When Bubbay turned around, there was Mrs. Timms, her arms outstretched, asking Bubbay if he’d like to come and live with her, as her son. Bubbay and Mrs. Timms each now had one to love. Josie shows the reader that no matter how young or old, whether we live under the stars, or in a little home on the plain, we all want and need someone to love. 

The Big Old Rambutan Tree.

By, Kathy Creamer, Little Pink Dog Books.

While this story holds an important message of the worrying plight of the orangutans in Sumatra, the story is told gently and full of heart. The illustrations are stunning and in particular the soulful eyes of the orangutans will pull at your heart strings. Author and illustrator Kathy Creamer is generously donating all proceeds to Orangutan Outreach:

Get your copy here:

The Golden Llama

The first in award-winning author, Aleesah Darlinson’s League of Llamas (LOL) series, ‘The Golden Llama’, certainly is a ‘Laugh out Loud’ kinda book. Secret agents Phillipe Llamar and his partner the ‘Llamator’ are tasked with saving their country, the Llama Republic, from ‘Bottomburp’ badger. The series is packed with cool names and Bottomburp lives up to his – funny, but gross! And so it’s perfect for the 7+ Introduction to chapter book age. As well as ‘funny’ and ‘gross’ there’s a ‘mystery’ – the Golden Llama has been stolen! Somehow the agents must overcome their obsessions (one with himself, the other with food!), employ some serious spy techniques and outsmart Bottomburp.

Available from all good bookstores: visit for more information. @AleesahDarlison @PenguinKidsAustralia @PuffinBooksAus


When my daughter faces a challenge, my first stop is to find a book to help! 

Lisa’s book is one such book that will be such a help for children and families to confront an uncomfortable yet inevitable part of life – letting go.

Lisa has cleverly written this story in such a way that it can be used to manage a range of situations, either temporary or permanent letting go: due to illness, or loss of a familiar routine, a favourite possession, a home –  to the letting go of beloved pets and loved ones.

Her short rhyming phrases keep the topic light and enjoyable to read, as well as clear and uncomplicated.

‘Saying Goodbye’ is also a useful resource in helping children suffering from separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety occurs when a child struggles to separate to other carers, to school, siblings, during divorce, or simply separating from loved ones at bedtime. 

Sigrid Wharton and Shai Lundgren’s colourful, cheery and fun illustrations soften the topic and will certainly appeal to children and help them connect with the story. Their use of rainbow watercolour compliments Lisa’s gentle style of writing.

‘Saying Goodbye’ is a helpful and comforting resource for all bookshelves.

(A percentage of book sales are returned to Lisa’s community by way of book donations to libraries, child care centres and local health services. Good work Lisa!)

You can get your copy here:


My latest Book Review for Writing NSW/ Horatio Squeak by Karen Foxlee

“Horatio Squeak is about giving unlikely friends a chance and being brave despite your fears. It’s not enough to listen to your true feelings — one needs to voice those thoughts, even if it is just a squeak!” – Michelle Wanasundera reviews Horatio Squeak by Karen Foxlee.

Horatio Squeak is Karen Foxlee’s debut picture book, about a meek little mouse who is invited to a party. Not just any party — a party hosted by kittens!

When a nervous Horatio Squeak takes a thimble of crumbs from his encouraging Mum – ‘Head up! Whiskers out!’ – and sets off on an adventure to the party upstairs, he shows us that while it might help to appear brave, you don’t necessarily need to be big or strong to be brave. Horatio musters a quiet bravery in order to get to the top of the stairs. In doing so, he discovers the rewards of stepping out of his comfort zone — navigating and admiring the grand old house (reminiscent of the house in Mary Norton’s The Borrowers), and eventually making it to the green attic door where games, crackers and cheese await with his new and unexpected kitten friends.

That’s quite an achievement for one meek little mouse, but when a poor robin becomes just another game for the kittens, Horatio is challenged to listen and voice his feelings (‘It’s cruel!’) to his new friends. In speaking up for the helpless bird, his safety and new friendships are at risk.

Foxlee gently points out the importance of speaking up for those treated unjustly, and as Horatio does so, politely. Perhaps in Horatio’s next adventure, strategies on speaking up for ourselves when faced with unkindness or bullying can be touched upon.

The ending is satisfying as Horatio retraces his steps back down the stairs of the grand house, feeling a lot less small than he did on the way up, and feeling proud as he spies out the window his feathered friend flying free.

Foxlee’s rhymes scan well; they are charming and remind me of Julia Copus’ Hog in the Fog, a read aloud favourite of mine and my daughter’s.

This is illustrator Evie Barrow’s first picture book. Her gouache and pencil illustrations are bright, textured and very, very sweet. While Horatio certainly appears timid, Barrow also captures his quiet, inquisitive and thoughtful nature. The warm and cosy colour palette has a timeless feel to it and the bright red pops of colour give it a modern and vibrant touch.

Horatio Squeak is about giving unlikely friends a chance and being brave despite your fears. It’s not enough to listen to your true feelings — one needs to voice those thoughts, even if it is just a squeak! With its gorgeous illustrations, generous size and pretty endpapers, the book is beautifully presented — certainly one to keep. I’ll end the review with my 6-year-old daughter’s thoughts, ‘Read it again!’ We’re hoping there are more of Horatio Squeak’s adventures to come.

Michelle Wanasundera is a children’s book reviewer and writer based in the Blue Mountains. She has recently self-published her first picture book, Bubbles and Puddles. You can view Michelle’s reviews on her blog. She is also on Facebook and Twitter.

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Book Review: ‘In the Bush I See’ by Kiara Honeychurch.

‘In the Bush I See’ is the fourth release in the Young Art Board Book Series showcasing Indigenous artists.

Talented teenager, Kiara Honeychurch, has created gorgeously coloured illustrations of Australian bush animals, inspired by her rural town in Tasmania.

While the colours she’s used don’t always depict the animals’ natural colours, children will love the multi-coloured highlights that accentuate each animal’s features. What’s not to love about a rainbow bandicoot or rainbow-pawed echidna?

The text is simple, but aptly describes each of the eight Australian animals, making it a great read-aloud resource for parents, teachers, and librarians, who will enjoy encouraging children to ‘screech’ like a cockatoo, ‘waddle’ like a wombat, and ‘slither’ like a snake.

I particularly enjoyed how Honeychurch captures the personalities of the animals, in their eyes.

Magabala has produced a quality shiny board book, small, durable, lightweight – perfect for little hands. A lovely addition to any 3-6 year old’s library.

See my original review here at Writing NSW: