REVIEW: Leave Taking by Lorraine Marwood

Published: 2nd July 2018

Publisher: University of Queensland Press

Pages: 125

Format: Paperback (borrowed from the library

RRP: $14.95

3.5/5 Stars

What if you had one week left to say goodbye to everything you’d ever known?

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 put things aside to sell or throw out. It’s a big task, and Toby doesn’t want to leave the only place he’s called home. 

As his last day on the farm approaches, Toby has a plan – a plan to say goodbye to all the things and places that mean something special to him and Leah, from the machinery shed and Pa’s old truck to the chook house. With the help of his best friend, Trigger the dog, he learns what it means to take your leave.


I don’t understand how we can leave

this farm. I don’t.

But I’m trying.

Funny, suddenly there are lots

of things I don’t understand. 

Leaving Taking by Lorraine Marwood is not your typical middle-grade novel. Told through free verse poetry, Marwood has captured the very essence of what it feels like to be leaving the only place you’ve called home, to lose a loved one and to reconcile that leaving the place full of memories with them doesn’t mean you leave them behind.

All my saness

for Leah is turning me into a stranger.

I cried reading this novel. We know right from the blurb that Toby’s family are struggling in the wake of his sister’s passing to cancer. We know they are selling the family farm that’s been in their family for generations because their family needs a fresh start, and yet somehow Marwood is able to take the reader on such a ride that your heart breaks for Toby and his family.

That helped a lot. 

But there is so much

inside me that hurts,

so doing this map of goodbye

makes me feel

a bit more like the Toby

I was when I was a big brother.

Marwood’s writing is spare, but tender and poignant taking the reader on an emotional rollercoaster as we follow Toby around his family farm on his ‘top-secret’ mission to say goodbye to everything he has ever known. With Trigger, his faithful dog is by his side, Toby teaches the reader about a farmer’s day-to-day life, breaking down the chores and dangers (brown snake in the machinery shed) into relateable bite-sized pieces. Through his first-hand account, we see a farm through three generations (his dad and Toby’s Grandpa feature heavily in this story) and what it takes to call it quits on a long-running family farm and how intertwined your life is with the land, animals and the everyday activities.

‘None of us want to forget Leah, 

and wish she was here

every single moment 

of every day.

We can’t bring her back,

but we can live for her.’

Leave Taking is a poignant story about grief and what it means to move on, both physically, but emotionally. It’s a story recommended for readers age 7/8 plus years of age and is a great introduction to big concepts of change, grief and losing a loved one.

To purchase a copy of Leave Taking, visit the following online retailers:

Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Dymocks | QBD

To learn more about Lorraine Marwood, visit the following social media sites:

Lorraine Marwood’s Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Facebook 


REVIEW: The Feather by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Published:  1st February 2018

Publisher: Little Hare, an imprint of Hardie Grant Egmont

Pages: 32

Format: hardcover picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $24.99

4/5 Stars

This is a story about hope, kindness and redemption set in a grey dystopian world. When a great feather drifts from the leaden sky, two children recognize its extraordinariness and take it to the village for its protection. The villagers, however, want to encase it, upon which the feather loses its radiance. The children take it home and care for it through the night. In the morning it is again radiant, and when they set it free it leaves behind the first signs of blue sky and color. The ambiguous ending invites multiple interpretations about the effects of selflessness and kindness.


Set in a world where the natural world is all but gone, The Feather by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood is an unusually dark picture book filled with hope. Continue reading

REVIEW: Tricky’s Bad Day by Alison Lester

Published: 30th October 2018

Publisher:  Affirm Press Kids

Pages: 32

Format:  Hardcover picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $ 19.99

5/5 Stars

Poor Tricky! Nothing is going right for him. Milk spills, pyjama buttons won’t work, his little sister wrecks their game, and when he tries to help out, everything gets worse. Tricky’s having a very bad day! Then Dad has an idea. Outside it’s wild, but there’s a lot to explore… From Australia’s favourite picture-book creator comes a warm and funny story about the very recognisable mess, muddle and love that is the life of a young family – and the freedom of an outside adventure.

Tricky’s Bad Day by Alison Lester is a sweet story about how a bad day can be instantly brightened with some one-on-one quality time with Dad.

Tricky is having the worst day. It started off with good intentions and small accidents (milk spills, helping his parents etc) and crescendoed into popped buttons, ruined favourite jumpers, and injuries from scooter accidents and dress up shoes. With Mum gone for the day, and Dad preoccupied with Tricky’s two younger siblings, Tricky’s day goes from bad to worse. But all is not lost, for once Mum returns home, Dad takes Tricky outside for some much needed one-on-one time. Together they go for a walk and climb their favourite trees as they watch the weather deteriorate and talk. Together, Tricky’s day is saved and it even turns out to be his best day ever.

Alison Lester has packed so much into this short and sweet picture book. The illustrations are perfectly positioned and accompany the text to bring true family heart and soul on the pages. On every page, you can feel the characters frustrations, anger and love for one another.  The text is relatively simple, consisting of roughly four-plus lines per page.

All in all, Tricky’s Bad Day is a brilliant book about bad moods, well-intended-mishaps, family and the way out moods and mindsets can be changed for the better with a hug from a loved one. It’s a brilliant teaching tool for young children on how to cope when things don’t necessarily go their way and a story full of hope, love and family drama.

Tricky’s Bad Day won the CBCA Book of the Year: Early Childhood book of 2019.

To purchase a copy of Tricky’s Bad Day, visit the following online retailers:

Affirm Press | Allison Lester | Amazon AUS | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks

To learn more about Alison Lester, visit the following social media sites:

Alison Lester’s Website | Facebook | GOODREADS




REVIEW: Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey by Alison Lester

Published: 11th June 2019

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 24

Format: Hardback Picture Book (borrowed from the Library)

RRP: $24.99

4/5 Stars

Noni the Pony and her friends help a lost wallaby joey find his family in this jaunty follow-up to Noni the Pony and Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach.

Noni the Pony and her friends Dave Dog and Coco the Cat are headed out to spend the day roaming the hills near Waratah Bay. But then they meet a lost wallaby joey who needs help finding his family. So Noni, Dave, and Coco ask all of their animal friends, from koala to wombat to possum, if anyone has seen the wallaby family. Will they be able to help their new friend find his way home?

Best selling Australian author and illustrator Alison Lester is back, with her third book in the Noni the Pony series, Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey.

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey is a sweet and simple tale about a lost joey looking his family, and the various Australian animals Noni the pony, Dave the Dog and Coco the Cat find along the way while looking for Joe the Joeys’ family.

I’m ashamed to admit here, that I’ve never read Noni the Pony or Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach before, but after devouring the new Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey, I will be rectifying that quick smart.

Allison Lester’s narrative is simple, sweet and to the point. As our gang of animals undertake their adventure, we are introduced to a variety of Australian animals in their natural habitat. Each animal is introduced with an accompanying piece of information about their personalities (shy platypus etc) or their chosen habitat (sleeping koala high in the trees).  The text is presented in rhyme with no more than two sentences on each page. The font size is large and the language simple, making it perfect for children learning to read to recognise letters and words, and hopefully read along with their parent.

Lester’s illustrations are iconic. Featuring thick bold outlines, her realistic cartoon style shapes the character of the book. Switching between full-colour pages and the occasional white background, Lester makes sure her words and intent are not only clear and concise but working in perfect harmony with the illustrations and overall presentation of the narrative.

Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey is a brilliant early childhood picture book, ideals for children aged one to four years old. I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to add to their child’s book collection or as a baby shower/first birthday present. It would also make an ideal gift for readers from overseas thanks to the simple introductions to our Australian fauna and flora.

Note: Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey was awarded the 2019 CBCA Book of the year: Early Childhood award.


To purchase a copy of Noni the Pony Rescues A Joey, visit the following online retailers:

Allen & Unwin Australia | Amazon AUS | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Book Depository | Dymocks | QBD

Alison Lester’s Website | Facebook |

To learn more about Alison Lester, visit the following social media sites:

Alison Lester’s Website | Facebook |

REVIEW: Waves by Donna Rawlins and Illustrated by Heather Potter and Mark Jackson

Published: 1st June 2018

Publisher: Walker Books Australia

Pages: 40

Format: Hardback picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $27.99

4/5 Stars

Every journey is perilous, every situation heartbreaking. Every refugee is a person forced by famine or war or fear to leave their home, their families, their friends and all they know. Children have travelled on the waves of migration to the shores of Australia for tens of thousands of years. This book tells some of their stories.

Waves is a narrative non-fiction book about the waves of migration to the shores of Australia.

Waves by Donna Rawlins and illustrated by Heather Potter and Mark Jackson is a powerful picture book that seeks to educate its readers of the many world explorers, merchants, convicts, migrants and refugees that have travelled to Australia. Waves holds no bars as it seeks to illustrate the stark realities these travellers experienced  including, but not limited too, the dangers of the unknown from rough seas, to unknown lands, families left behind, children dying on boats from sickness and disease, actual pirates kidnapping women and children, the pain of leaving home behind  … The experiences are as unique and endless as the people and cultures they represent. Waves covers a wide expanse of time, with the first ‘recording’ beginning 50 000 years ago and the most recent entry being the early 2000s.

If you are not an Indigenous Australian, your family have, at some stage, come to Australia from across the waves …


Continue reading

REVIEW: Sorry Day by Coral Vass and illustrated by Duff Leffler

Published: 1st May 2018

Publisher: National Library of Australia

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback picture book (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars

Sorry Day acknowledges the past and shows a willlingness to make things right. The story commemorates both the momentous speech made by the Prime Minister of Australia to say sorry to the indigenous people for past abuse and to also recognise the decades of abuse suffered by the Stolen Generation. Told through the eyes of a young girl participating in the ceremony today and, in sepia colours, the eyes of the stolen children in the past.

Sorry Day by Coral Vass and Illustrated by Dub Leffler is a remarkable book for a number of reasons. Vass and Leffler have created the perfect book that illustrates the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd’s historic 2008 speech where he apologised for the government’s policy towards Aboriginals which resulted in the stolen generation.

Within the book, this speech shows a contemporary community watching and reacting to the 2008 speech, with the focus on a young child positioned in the crowd. As Rudd’s speech is presented in the ‘present’ time, Vass and Leffler juxtapose this against the historic reactions of the stolen generation on every second double-page spread. In both representations, we see small children, fearful and traumatised as they are separated from their parents. For the historic representation, this is done using force; the present-day representation the small child has wandered off in the sea of legs and is unable to find Mum.

Sorry Day is a poignant reminder of the need to educate all Australians about the harm that has transpired, and the need for the government to apologise. The picture book serves as a constant reminder, educational tool and perhaps most importantly, a comparison for today and future generations to understand a small percentage of the fear and nightmares the Indigenous community lived for years on end.

Sorry Day by Coral Vass and illustrated by Dub Leffler was shortlisted for the CBCA Eve Pownall Award earlier this year.

UPDATE: Sorry Day by Coral Vass and illustrated by Dub Leffler was awarded the winner of the 2019 CBCA Eve Pownall Award.


To purchase a copy of SORRY DAY, visit the following online retailers:

Amazon AUS | Angus & Robertson | Booktopia | Dymocks | QBD 

to learn more about Coral Vass, visit the following social media sites:

Coral Vass | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter


To learn more about Dub Leffler, visit the following social media sites:



Waiting On Wednesday: ‘Styx & Stones’ by Carmen Jenner


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

Is it September yet? This new book from Carmen Jenner is going to be epic and I can’t wait to get stuck into it … with a box of tissues, chocolates and perhaps some alcohol on hand of course!


Published by: Self Published

Expected Publication: 3rd September 2019

Cancer sucks … and then you die.

Alaska Stone is a walking wet dream.

My wet dream.

For years, I’ve watched her in the halls, wanted her, but she never knew I existed.

Not until she walked into my chemo session.

For me, it was love at first sight.

For her? It might take a little longer.

But hey, it’s not like we’re on a deadline or anything.


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