REVIEW: Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh & illustrated by Samantha Fry

Published: 2nd April 2019

Publisher: Magabala Books

Pages: 40

Format: Hardback picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $19.99

5/5 Stars

SHORTLISTED – 2018 Speech Pathology Australia’s Book of the Year (Eight to Ten Years category)

LONGLISTED – 2019 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) Small Publishers’ Children’s Book of the Year

Alfred’s War is a powerful story that unmasks the lack of recognition given to Australian Indigenous servicemen who returned from the WWI battlelines. Alfred was just a young man when he was injured and shipped home from France. Neither honoured as a returned soldier or offered government support afforded to non-Indigenous servicemen, Alfred took up a solitary life walking the back roads – billy tied to his swag, finding work where he could.

Rachel Bin Salleh’s poignant narrative opens our hearts to the sacrifice and contribution that Indigenous people have made to Australia’s war efforts, the true extent of which is only now being revealed.

Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh and illustrated by Samantha Fry is a beautiful, but a heartbreaking tribute to the forgotten Aboriginal Australian soldiers who fought gallantly alongside their company only to receive no recognition for their services.

Alfred is Aboriginal. Not counted as a citizen, and with very little rights, he is restricted to the outskirts of cities and strict rules of living that separated him from society.  When the Great War (World War I) broke out, Alfred enlists to fight for his country. When wounded in combat, he returns to Australia, to find his service is neither recognised or celebrated like that of his company.

Rachel Bin Salleh’s narrative is heartbreaking true for way too many Australians. Not only were Indigenous Australians not recognised as citizens, or even people, at the time, their brave service abroad during the wars meant little when they return to Australia. During the wars, Aboriginal soldiers were treated as equals, only to return home to be ignored and forgotten. They were even excluded from post-war services dedicated to war veterans and establishments designed to help them settle into civilian life.

Salleh has taken great care to craft her story in such a way that there is no bias evident. Her story is simple and straight, telling the facts and experiences of those involved. Despite the subject matter, there are no emotional embellishments or bashing of the other side in order to get her point across. Instead, we have a story that aims straight and true and speaks openly and honestly about a forgotten group of soldiers who deserved the same recognition of their comrades.

The language used is clear, simple and concise with no more than two sentences used across a double-page spread. This combined with Salleh’s unbiased view, allows the story to resonate strongly with children of all ages, especially when combined with Fry’s illustrations.

Samantha Fry’s watercolour illustrations are stunning in their own right, but when combined with Salleh’s text, they transform into a poignant, but heartbreaking, story that is sure to capture your attention and stay with you long after the final page has been turned. Her illustrations use the full double-page spreads to tell their story and they and they are breathtaking to behold.

Alfred’s War is a touching and poignant story, reminding readers all of ages how lives were changed by the war, and the hardships Aboriginal people have faced for centuries in Australia. It is a story that every Australian needs to read so that the experience is never repeated again.

To purchase a copy of Aldred’s War, visit the following online retailers:

Magabala Books | ANGUS & ROBERTSON | Booktopia | Dymocks | QBD |

to learn more about Rachel Bin Salleh, visit the following social media pages:

Magabala Books 


To learn more about Samantha Fry, visit the following social media pages: 

Instagram | Magabala Books

Waiting On Wednesday: Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine. The purpose is to spotlight upcoming releases that we are excited for.

The sequel to the much loved Tattooist of Auschwitz is coming in October and I for one am both excited and terrified to read this one. I already have my box of tissues and chocolates on hand.

Published by: Allen & unwin

Expected Publication: 14th October 2019

Her beauty saved her life – and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, in 1942. The Commandant at Birkenau, Schwarzhuber, notices her long beautiful hair, and forces her separation from the other women prisoners. Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly given, equals survival.

After liberation, Cilka is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to Siberia. But what choice did she have? And where did the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was sent to Auschwitz when still a child?

In a Siberian prison camp, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she makes an impression on a woman doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing. Cilka begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Cilka finds endless resources within herself as she daily confronts death and faces terror. And when she nurses a man called Ivan, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

‘She was the bravest person I ever met’ – Lale Sokolov, The Tattooist of Auschwitz


REVIEW: My Name Is Not Refugee by Kate Milner

Published: 14th May 2017

Publisher: The Bucket List

Pages: 32

Format: Paperback picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $12.99

4/5 Stars

A young boy discusses the journey he is about to make with his mother. They will leave their town, she explains, and it will be sad but also a little bit exciting. They will have to say goodbye to friends and loved ones, and that will be difficult. They will have to walk and walk and walk, and although they will see many new and interesting things, it will be difficult at times too. A powerful and moving exploration that draws the young reader into each stage of the journey, inviting the chance to imagine the decisions he or she would make. From the winner of the V&A Student Illustration Award 2016.

My Name is not Refugee is an incredibly powerful picture book aimed at both children and kids alike.

Kate Milner has done an incredible job breaking down the emotional, mental and physical complexities of the refugee experience into a bittersweet and poignant story for your children. Milner’s narrative is short, but certainly not sweet, as the unnamed child narrator recounts what their mother has told him and the unusual activities, scenes, sounds and scents that he explores on his way to his new home.

The story is heartbreaking, but Milner has matched her illustrations and text perfectly, allowing the reader to get  a sense of hope and encouragement. Even the layout of the pages is perfect, with the images and text all large and with plenty of white space behind them allowing the story and illustrations to take center stage.

Although the story is gentle in its devastation, breaking down the situation into small bite-size chunks suitable for the really young, the title and final lines of this book pack one hell of punch for readers of all ages. It truly is a book that readers from all walks of life, all social-economic, religious and  cultural backgrounds NEED to read.

I feel very strongly about this book, and feel like it belongs on every child’s home library and in every classroom around the world.

I highly recommend My Name is Not Refugee to everyone.

To purchase a copy of My Name Is Not Refugee, visit the following online retailers:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks

To learn more about Kate Milner, visit the following social media pages:


REVIEW: The Great $20 Adventure by Effie Zahos and Illustrated by IIona Tar

Published: 2nd November 2015

Publisher: Bauer Media Group


Format: Softcover picture book (hired from the library)

RRP: $14.95

/5 Stars

“What would you do if your Grandma gave you $20 for your birthday? 

Max and his dog, George, go on a great $20 adventure and learn that there’s more you can do with money than just spend it.”


Effie Zhaos is a financial guru and author of A Real Girl’s Guide to Money: From Converse to Louboutins (2019), but back in 2015 she published a picture book, The Great $20 Adventure, with Illustrator IIona Tar to teach children about the importance, and value, of money.

When Max is gifted $20 for his birthday, he doesn’t know what to do with it. Should he spend it all at once? Save it?  Undecided, Max goes for a walk with his dog George and along the way he meets: Miss Penny Saver the Squirrel who insists he saves it’; Jack Flash ” the prettiest turkey you'[ve] ever see[n]’ with all the latest ‘it’ items who  heard that Max has money that needs to be spent;  Donny Dangerous, the shady big bad wolf conman who swears he can double the money; Queen Bee the business entrepreneur wants him to start a business; and lastly, charity spokesperson Mr Givings who asks for a donation. With so many options, Max finds himself more confused than ever.

I did enjoy the fairytale edge to this story and liked that the narrator kept asking the reader if they thought  Max and George should spend the money. By doing so Zahos continually broke down the fourth wall and put the question back on the reader asking them to choose what option they would prefer. It would be interesting to see how many times a child changes their answer throughout the book or if they were to stick to their first choice right from the beginning of the book.

IIona Tar’s illustrations were cute cartoon figures that brought a homely and fantastical element to the story. Although I will admit to being a tad confused when ‘some’ of the characters suddenly transform into humans on one page only to be animals again on the next. The text doesn’t support this transformation, and although we all know the various characters Max and George meet on their walk are very real people, it was a bit jarring to the story.

Given both Zahos’ and Tar’s financial backgrounds, it comes at no surprise that they have included a couple of pages of financial advice and ideas to teach children about the basics and realities of money from a young age.

Taking everything into consideration, I can see that Zahos, as a financial guru, had the best intentions with this book. While it is a fantastic teaching tool, I found the story lacking in parts and pretty two dimensional. The concept is brilliant, but the narrative comes across preachy and little too forced for my liking. That said, Zahos has developed and circulated a great book for children about money, and it’s a book that all Australian children (Zhaos is Australian, the book is set here) SHOULD read despite being incredibly hard to track down a copy.

All in all The Great $20 Adventure is an enjoyable story that shows a lot of promise. It’s a good starting point to talk to young children about money and how to be responsible with it.


To purchase a copy of The Great $20 Adventure, visit the following online retailers:

Amazon AUS | Angus & RobertsonBook Depository | QBD

To learn more about Effie Zahos, visit the following social media sites:

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

To learn more about IIona Tar, visit the following social media sites:


September Reading Challenges

After taking part in the 24in48 readathon challenge in July, I’ve been actively looking for more unique and varied reading challenges that I can incorporate into my reading schedule and blog life.

For the month of September, I’ve selected three reading challenges to participate in, on top of the three I already do annually (goodreads, Australian Women Writers Challenge and my own bingo card).

The three I’ve selected for this month are:

Sequel September

Sequel September is hosted by Books and Munchies and its essentially a month where you read as many sequels as you like. As I’ve started a bunch of books and are yet to finish their series, I thought this challenge was perfect.

In September I’m aiming to read:



Nameathon is hosted by Under The Covers Book Reviews and Ideally Inspired Reviews and it’s running from the 16th to the 22nd September.

This readathon has you creating a TBR based on the letters in your name using the below infographic.

My blog name is way too long for a readathon based in this time period, so I’m using JESS.

J = Quiet one gets the boy/girl

E= Enemies-to-lovers

S= Rom-com

S= Red Cover

I’m not entirely sure what books I’m using for these prompts yet, but it looks fun!


Popularthon is hosted by  @kitkatscanread, @kafweenstrail and @Imagineamalee. The readathon goes the duration of the month )1-30th September).

The group book for September is Scythe by Neal Schusterman.


Obviously, that’s a tonne of books I NEED to read this month, but I’m hoping to use particular books for more than one title. I.e Scythe could classify as the popularathon’s group book + Nameathon’s red book etc … at least that’s the plan 🙂

Are you taking part in any reading challenges this month?


Waiting On Wednesday: ‘The Lady Rogue’ by Jenn Bennett


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine. The purpose is to spotlight upcoming releases that we are excited for.


Published by: Simon Pulse

Expected Publication: 10th September 2019

The Last Magician meets A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue in this thrilling tale filled with magic and set in the mysterious Carpathian Mountains where a girl must hunt down Vlad the Impaler’s cursed ring in order to save her father.

Some legends never die…

Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler—more widely known as Dracula—and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag 2019 (…Yes, It’s Super late!)

I found out about the Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag via book tube and then bloggers at the start of August, but I already had August booked and today was the first time I could post it … so here we go.

I’ve had an exceptionally good book year this year and have currently read 120 books to date ( a lot of them were picture books, graphic novels, textbooks etc, but they still count). Out of the books I’ve read, the majority of them were amazing which made doing this post so hard. I’ve tried to limit the number of times certain books were mentioned, but there are a select few that really blew my mind and keep cropping up!


Best book you’ve read in 2019.

It was ridiculously hard to choose just one book for this prompt … so I didn’t. These books are the ones that immediately stand out whenever I think of the books I read this year.

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019.

At first, looking through the books I read, I didn’t think I read a sequel and then I spotted these two.

The Wicked King by Holly Black ruined me. I loved this book so much and can not wait for the third and final book in the series to be released later this year. That cliff-hanger had me coming up with so many possibilities …

Wolf Rain by Nalini Singh is a more recent year and I loved everything about this book. I heard everyone gushing about it, and finally dived in myself to be completely and utterly blown away. Continue reading