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Did you know that you CAN judge a book by its cover?

It’s true. A lot of expertise goes into creating a cover so that it conveys genre and age-appropriateness, and hints at the content. If you’re looking for your child’s next favourite book or series, you can start with the fonts, colours, and images of the last one they loved. Scan the virtual shelves of your favourite retailer and pick out any books that seem to have a similar design. Then use a guide such as the one available through my mailing list, or websites such as Common Sense Media or Goodreads to make a more detailed assessment on whether the title is right for your child. Continue reading “Did you know that you CAN judge a book by its cover?”

Best YA and Children’s Books of 2019

Now is a great time to stock up on new books for the new school year. Here is my list of the best YA, middle grade, and early reader books published in 2019 (or late 2018).

My overall pick for Book of the Year 2019 is:

Lubna and Pebble by Wendy Meddour

Picture books and early reader books:

1. Lubna and Pebble – Wendy Meddour
2. Counting on Katherine – Helaine Becker
3. Moonlight the Unicorn’s High Tea Hiccup (Miniwings Book 6) – Sally Sutton
4. Oi, Duck-Billed Platypus! (Oi Series) – Kes Gray
5. Oi, Puppies! (Oi Series) – Kes Gray
6. Yasmin in Charge – Saadia Faruqi
7. Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush : A Hide and Seek Sleepover
8. Tiggy and the Magic Paintbrush : A Very Wobbly Tooth

Books for older readers:

9. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, edition fully illustrated by Jim Kay – JK Rowling
10. Calling All WitchesLaurie Calkhoven (a celebration of the witches of JK Rowling’s wizarding world)
11. The Velvet Fox – Catherine Fisher (sequel to the Clockwork Crow)
12. Witch in Winter – Kaye Umansky (book 4 in the Elsie Pickles, Witch series)
13. Tom Gates : Spectacular School Trip (Really) – Liz Pichon
14. The Seven Keys (sequel to The Turnkey) – Allison Rushby

Biography & General Non-fiction:

15. The Extraordinary Life of Malala Yousafzai – Hiba Noor Khan
16. The Extraordinary Life of Michelle Obama – Dr Sheila Kanani
17. Eddie Woo’s Magical Maths – Eddie Woo
18. General Knowledge Genius – Peter Crisp
19. 6000 Awesome Facts – pub. Miles Kelly
20. Epic Encounters in the Animal Kingdom (Brave Adventures Vol. 2) – Coyote Peterson

The Case for Supervised Play in Early Childhood and Primary School – Essay

“Boys will be boys” is a catch-phrase tossed up by over-worked and under-resourced early childhood educators when concerned parents query playground etiquette. But when children as young as four years old are playing games that involve “shooting all the girls in the heart”, capturing and “killing” each other, and targeting any children who do not actively choose to play with this group, a radical reassessment is required. Continue reading “The Case for Supervised Play in Early Childhood and Primary School – Essay”

10 Reasons Ant-Man and the Wasp is a Fun, Feminist-Friendly Family Film – SPOILERS

SPOILER WARNING

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a Marvel Studios movie that was released in 2018. The movie stars Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hannah John-Kamen, Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Laurence Fishburne.

Here are ten refreshingly feminist details and plot points the writers of Ant-Man and the Wasp got right. Continue reading “10 Reasons Ant-Man and the Wasp is a Fun, Feminist-Friendly Family Film – SPOILERS”

Herman Parrish – Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book Series

The Amelia Bedelia chapter book series is a spin off written by Herman Parrish based on the character created by his aunt Peggy Parrish in the 1960s. While the original features Amelia Bedelia as an adult, Herman Parrish’s series places an approximately 10-year-old Amelia Bedelia in a current-day setting and explores school and small-town life in general through her eyes. Amelia Bedelia might not be one of the “cool” kids, but she always somehow manages to pull off the most spectacular wins when it counts. As the child who takes everything literally, hilarity ensues whenever she comes up against an idiom she hasn’t met before (and with a father who peppers his conversation with them, there is plenty of confusion to add to the laughs). Continue reading “Herman Parrish – Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book Series”

I Own All the Blue

“Pink is a flamingo colour. Blue is for bowerbirds.”

Join bowerbird and his friends in a colourful tale of mayhem as they experience a world where entitlement is taken to the extreme.

Ideal as a discussion-starter story for exploring society’s expectations, generalisations, privilege, and the value of sharing.

Download teaching notes here.

I Own All the Blue is available in paperback from many online bookstores. ISBN 9780992443825

Book Depository

Angus & Robertson

Booktopia

Amazon (US)

Amazon (AU)

Denise Kirby – 88 Lime Street : The Way In

This review contains SPOILERS and is intended for parents.

The Way In is a great start to what will presumably continue as an 88 Lime Street series, although there is very little information on any follow up books. Beginning as a standard-fare haunted house story, the plot twists into more of a time-slip adventure with some big scares unsuitable for young or sensitive readers. It’s a bit Indiana(s)-Jones-for-teens with booby traps and hazards. Continue reading “Denise Kirby – 88 Lime Street : The Way In”

I Own All the Blue – Release Date Announced

I Own All the Blue

I Own All the Blue will be available as a paperback book from the 13th of June 2018.

This picture book for ages four to seven tells the story of a bowerbird who refuses to share the colour blue. Bowerbird’s greed and sense of entitlement has a domino effect as the other animals race to claim colours for themselves. Mixing the colours could lead to disaster as one animal stands to inherit it all… unless everyone learns to share.

I Own All the Blue is a Modern Fable

As a parent, I’ve noticed with surprise how vehement children are about enforcing certain conventions of our society, such as which colours and styles of clothing are allowed to be worn by boys and which are exclusively for girls.

I Own All the Blue is a tongue-in-cheek challenge to the idea that specific colours are exclusively for specific groups. It’s a book that promotes sharing, and I hope it will help to generate a little bit of thinking and questioning of some of the strange rules we enforce on each other for no real reason.

Preview the Entire Book

I know how frustrating it is to pick up a children’s book that looks promising only to find that the last page goes against your principles. Or trying to gauge the content from a brief Look Inside on Amazon. So I know and understand that you want to vet the entire book before you invest in it.

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Jessica Day George – Tuesdays at the Castle

This review contains SPOILERS and is intended for parents.

There have been a slew of sentient-building stories recently and Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George is easily one of the best of them (followed narrowly by 88 Lime Street and The Inn Between, which I’ll review soon).

Don’t be misled by the cute cover or even the fun-sounding concept of a castle that changes its rooms around once a week. Tuesdays at the Castle is excellent for older readers and features a truly awesome female protagonist. It’s ideal for anyone who thinks they’re growing out of “princess books”. Continue reading “Jessica Day George – Tuesdays at the Castle”

Elizabeth Pulford – Sanspell : Book 1 of The BloodTree Chronicles

This review contains SPOILERS and is intended for parents.

Sanspell, the first book in Elizabeth Pulford’s BloodTree Chronicles, is a strange piece of metafiction that has some familiar echoes in the race to fulfil a quest before the last leaves fall from the cursed and dying Bloodtree. This book takes itself seriously with none of the tongue-in-cheek self-mockery that usually takes the edge off stories of this type. Continue reading “Elizabeth Pulford – Sanspell : Book 1 of The BloodTree Chronicles”

Play Like a Girl Chapter Book Series

Jo Stanley’s Play Like a Girl Chapter Book Series (in collaboration with AFLW*) is my surprise find for the year. Each of the four books follows a different protagonist with a minor issue to overcome while playing (Australian Rules) footy for the Millsborough West Girls’ Under 12 Football Team (The Flyers). Sarah has just moved to a new area and a new school; Hanh is jealous of her best friend; Rainbow is the “weird” kid who doesn’t fit in at school; Lucy is shy and not just because she wears hearing aids. They are all coached by Shawna, a tough, sporty woman with a loud voice and spiky blue hair. The books are simple and the story problems are very brief and easy to resolve, but the characterisation is great with a broad range of different personalities and motivations. Finding out how these girls are going to cope and succeed is rather compelling. Continue reading “Play Like a Girl Chapter Book Series”

Stella by the Sea

Stella by the Sea by Ruth Starke is a simple and lovely story of friendship and community. After a vivid dream that seems to match exactly, schoolgirl Stella responds to an advertisement for a cubbyhouse for sale. The only problem is she has nowhere to put it – she lives in a penthouse apartment with no backyard. So, being the daughter of a real estate superstar, Stella considers her options and offers to rent the cubbyhouse instead. While her elderly landlord initially seems gruff, Stella soon discovers that Chester is a real old softy – a retired pastry chef who loves baking but doesn’t see the point in “baking for one”. And another perk of renting a patch of Chester’s backyard comes in the form of the neighbours’ pets – one by one Stella begins a dog-walking and cat-minding business. Soon she has befriended a number of people in the area and she connects them with the reticent Chester by throwing herself a cubbyhouse-warming party. Chester now has plenty of baking requests, and in return his neighbours take care of him: free hair cuts, lawn mowing, companionship. But progress and development, and growing old, threaten their idyllic little set up. Chester has some hard bargaining to do if he’s going to do right by his young tenant.