Category Archives: Picture books

visiting with illustrator Helene Magisson

Visiting with illustrator Hélène Magisson – readilearn

This week I’m visiting with illustrator Helene Magisson to chat about her latest book Sarah’s Two Nativities written by Janine M Fraser and published by Black Dog Books. The book is due for release this month with a launch scheduled for the 21st.

About Helene

I first introduced you to Helene in 2017 when she chatted about her process of illustrating, especially as it related to the beautiful book of poetry Magic Fish Dreaming written by June Perkins. You can read that interview here.

Since the publication of Magic Fish Dreaming, Helene has illustrated a number of other books and now has eleven published books in her portfolio, with more on the way. I am not surprised that Helene is sought after as an illustrator. I think you’d have to agree that her, mainly watercolour, illustrations are exquisite and possess an almost magical quality.

Although Helene now calls Australia home, she has lived in countries all over the world, including Africa, France, and India. That her travels both inspire and enrich her work is obvious in her delightful illustrations that perfectly complement Janine Fraser’s story Sarah’s Two Nativities.

About Sarah’s Two Nativities

From the publisher:

‘Sarah loves her two grandmas – Grandmother Azar and Grandmother Maria. Grandmother Azar tells Sarah stories from the Holy Koran, while Grandmother Maria tells her stories from the Bible. At Christmas time, Sarah snuggles in each of her grandmothers’ laps and listens to two nativities stories about the birth of baby Jesus. They are the same in some ways, and different in others … but both can be Sarah’s favourite.’

Continue reading: Visiting with illustrator Hélène Magisson – readilearn

Celebrating Book Week's Secret Power - Reading

Celebrating Book Week’s Secret Power — Reading – readilearn

The CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Book Week kicks off tomorrow 17 August for a week of activities celebrating Australian Literature. Book Week is heralded by the announcement of the book awards on the third Friday in August at 12 noon.

The awards are presented to books in the following categories:

  • Older Readers
  • Younger Readers
  • Early Childhood
  • Picture Book
  • Eve Pownall (for information books)

(Click this link to see the Notables, a fine collection of books) from which the Short List was compiled and from which Winners were selected in each category.)

2019 Book Week Theme and Resources

The theme for this year’s Book Week is Reading is My Secret Power.

To celebrate, poet Mike Lucas has written a great poem. You can download a copy of Mike’s poem Reading is my Secret Power here.

The CBCA website provides these useful links to resources to help you celebrate Book Week.

Children’s Rights to Read

Reading may be a secret power, but it is also a superpower and a right of every child. Book Week is an appropriate time during which to reflect upon our classroom practices and consider how well they meet the International Literacy Association’s Children’s Rights to Read. (You can download and support the rights through this link.)

Continue reading: Celebrating Book Week’s Secret Power — Reading – readilearn

Surprise party for a koala flash fiction

Surprise Party for a Koala

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Koala

Last week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a koala in a kingdom. You can create a character out of Norah’s koala and give it a Vermont adventure. Or you can make up a story however you want! Can you pull off a BOTS (based on a true story)? Go where the prompt leads!

While most prompts run for just one week, this one runs for two as Charli has been in Vermont conducting the inaugural and very successful Carrot Ranch Writers’ Refuge.

A Kingdom for a Koala flash fiction

Although I submitted A kingdom for a Koala in response to the prompt last week, I thought I’d have another go this week. The koala is one of my favourite Australian animals and also the animal emblem of my home state Queensland.

Koala Lou by Mem Fox

I always list Koala Lou by Mem Fox among my (many) favourite picture books. (You can listen to Mem read it by following that link.)

Little koala's party

Little Koala’s Party — a story for problem solving is one of my favourite readilearn teaching resources. The story engages children in helping Little Koala work out the number of guests and items required for her party. They can then use the same strategies to organise a party of their own. I always loved the illustrations that were done by an artist I met on 99designs.

That’s a lot of favourites so how could I not write another koala story? I decided that, for this week’s story, I would link Charli’s prompt with thoughts of a party. I hope you like it.

Surprise Party for a Koala


Little Koala’s eyes pinged open.

There it was again. BANG! BANG!

She stretched, clambered down the tree and headed towards the noise.

She stopped under possum’s tree and peered into the branches.

“What’s going on here?”

Possum peeked out, glancing left and right. “Nothing.”

“Tell me!”

“Nothing. Go away.”

Koala scrambled up the tree. “What’re you doing?”

Possum grimaced, pointing to a sign.

“You know I can’t read yet.”

Possum placed a crown on Koala’s head. “It was supposed to be a surprise. Happy birthday.”

Koala felt special as a princess when all her friends arrived.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

celebrating man's first moon walk

Celebrating Man’s First Moon Walk – readilearn

Celebrating man’s first moon walk in the classroom with ideas for reading, writing, maths, science, technology, and history.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of man’s first moon walk. On 20 July 1969, Neil Armstrong was the first man to place foot on the moon. Buzz Aldrin joined him shortly after and they spent just over two hours together outside the spacecraft.

Since then another ten astronauts, all of whom were American men, have walked on the moon. The six crewed moon landings took place between 1969 and 1972.

Celebrations of the first moon landing are taking place around the world. You can check out NASA events here and NASA resources for educators here.

The way you celebrate the event in your classroom can be big or small. Here are a few easy-to-implement suggestions for different subject areas:

Ideas for the classroom

Critical thinking

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon, he said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Ask children to give their opinions about the intended message of Neil Armstrong’s words. Were his words effective? How else could it be expressed?

  • If I were an astronaut

Continue reading: Celebrating Man’s First Moon Walk – readilearn


Lessons ready to teach critical thinking in early childhood classrooms – readilearn

Even young children in early childhood classrooms can be taught to think critically about material that is presented to them. Being able to discern the accuracy of what they read is increasingly important in this era of fake news.

In this post, I provide some suggestions with lessons ready to teach using children’s picture books. The types of questions and ideas can be applied to other books for checking the accuracy of information.

To assist in verification of information, children can be encouraged to ask and answer questions such as:

  • What do we already know?
  • Does this match what we already know?
  • What do we want to find out?
  • How can we find out?
  • How can we be sure the information is true?
  • Is it fact or is it fiction?

Children, and adults, need to be aware that misinformation, often cleverly disguised as fact, is available everywhere, including on the internet. Being able to navigate one’s way through it all is a very important skill, regardless of age. This article by Tech Teacher Jacqui Murray has some useful advice about Fake News or Fact? How do you tell?

We don’t need to present young children with fake news stories to teach them the skills of critical thinking. We can begin with discussions of stories and information we present to them each day.

Continue reading: Lessons ready to teach critical thinking in early childhood classrooms – Readilearn

Interview with Anne Donnelly author illustrator of Ori's Clean-Up

Interview with Anne Donnelly, author-illustrator – readilearn

With tomorrow 8 June World Oceans Day and World Environment Day just a few days ago on 5 June, there is no better time than now to introduce you to Anne Donnelly and her delightful picture book Ori’s Clean-up.

The aim of World Oceans Day is to celebrate, protect and conserve the world’s oceans. The 2019 theme Together we can protect and restore our ocean focuses on preventing plastic pollution.  With its environmental theme incorporating recycling and re-using, Anne’s book is a perfect fit.

About Anne Donnelly

Anne lives in Sydney with her husband, her two children and their new puppy that chews everything! She loves to be creative in all sorts of ways. She loves to read, write, craft and is a very animated storyteller. As a little girl, she used to draw on the underside of the kitchen table and all the way up the stairs, on each step, much to her parent’s shock.

She has released three books in the Ori Octopus series; Ori the Octopus and Ori’s Christmas in 2017. And now she is especially excited about her latest book Ori’s Clean-Up as it combines two of her passions; children’s literacy and care of our environment. This book has been endorsed by Clean Up Australia and is being stocked at various zoos, national parks, museums, visitor centres, aquariums and holiday destinations all over the country.

About Ori’s Clean-Up

Ori the Octopus and his friends have left their rubbish everywhere. They tidy up, but it doesn’t work. To keep their home clean and healthy, they need to do something different, something better.

The Interview

 Hi, Anne. Welcome to readilearn.

 Thanks for inviting me.

Anne, you tell your stories with words and pictures. When did you know you wanted to be a storyteller and share your stories with others?

Continue reading: Interview with Anne Donnelly, author-illustrator – readilearn

School Days Reminiscences of Robbie Cheadle

School Days, Reminiscences of Robbie Cheadle

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Robbie Cheadle, author, poet and blogger. I’m not sure when or where I first met Robbie, but I know was captivated by her delightfully unique Sir Chocolate series of picture books which she illustrates with amazing fondant figurines. I was also intrigued to know that these books were jointly written with her and her son Michael, starting from when he was ten years old. There are now six books in the Sir Chocolate series and, since then, Robbie has published a memoir of her mother’s war-time childhood, co-written a book of poems, and had others of her poems and short stories featured in anthologies.

Robbie Cheadle and her books

Before we begin the interview, I asked Robbie to tell you a little of herself:

Robbie, short for Roberta, is an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with her son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about her mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with her mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of Robbie’s children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications. 

Robbie has recently branched into adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential her children’s books from her adult writing, these will be published under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. Robbie has two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. These short stories are published under Robbie Cheadle.

Robbie has also recently published a poetry collection, Open a new door, together with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.

Welcome, Robbie.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

I went to fourteen different schools as we moved around a lot. My first school was Craighall Convent in Johannesburg. The school I learned the most at was a bilingual school in George in the Western Cape. I was only there for six weeks but I learned the basics of Afrikaans (second language in South Africa) which I had missed out on before.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

I attended a mixture of schools. I attended a couple of private schools when I was in primary school including two convents. I went to public schools when we lived in George for the first time and when we lived in Cape Town. I attended a public high school in Johannesburg.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I have a degree and an honours degree in Accounting as well as my board examinations to become a chartered accountant. I was keen to do an economics degree a few years ago when I wrote my publications on direct foreign investment into Africa but I couldn’t find anything suitable. I reverted to self-study and analysis instead and this research is in my publications.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

Immediately after school I went to a secretarial college for a year where I learned typing, shorthand and the other skills of a professional secretary. I then worked for a few years and saved money which I used to pay for some of my university education. I attended a correspondence university and worked shifts in a video shop to earn money while I did my first degree. I applied for, and was accepted, for an internship at KPMG in Johannesburg when I finished my degree. KPMG paid for my studies for my honours degree and I studied part time in the evenings and during public holidays and weekends. It was hard but I managed to do it and I passed all my examinations first time around, even my honours degree where I had to pass all nine examinations in one sitting.

What is your earliest memory of school?

Robbie Cheadle as a school girl in the news

I remember having my photograph taken for the national newspaper on the first day of school. My friend’s father was a photographer for the newspaper and he used me as his “First day of school” photograph that year.

I also remember being left out when the girls (aged 7 years old) when to mass and practiced for their first Holy Communion. I recall being sad that I didn’t have a long white dress and candle. I only took my Holy Communion when I was 12 years old and we were living in George.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I remember being fascinated with books and reading. I can recall sounding out the words by myself and the triumph of reading Little Bear all by myself. Once I got the hang of reading, I just went from strength to strength. I got books for every birthday and Christmas and belonged to the library. When I was 9 years old and we lived in Cape Town, I used to cycle to the library twice a week and take out 7 books at a time to read (4 library cards were mine and 3 were my sister, Cath’s, but she let me use them.)

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I remember writing my name in my books and I always inverted by b’s, d’s and p’s. I had a bit of remedial help and this was corrected when I was 8 years old. My old books still have the inscription Roderta Eaton.

What do you remember about math classes?

I have very little memory of maths class other than I was able to do reasonably well without much effort which left me lots of time to read. I remember my high school maths teacher writing a remark on my report that said: “Generally speaking, Robbie is generally speaking.” I have always remembered that comment. I had one teacher that told my mom that I had layers like an onion which you needed to peel back to find the real me. My mother was also told by a teacher that I practiced “silent insubordination.”

Robbie Cheadle discusses what she liked best about school

What was your favourite subject?

I enjoyed English firstly and then History. Accounting and Maths were both relatively easy for me and I hated Afrikaans with a passion. My second ever Afrikaans teacher embarrassed me in front of the whole class and I would never bother with learning this language after that.

What did you like best about school?

I have two lovely memories of school, one, was creating a play with my friends to perform for the class when I was 8 years old. I loved organizing the cast and teaching them their roles. I have always enjoyed project management and organizing. The other memory I cherish was being chosen to be Mary in the Nativity Play when I was 12-years old. I was simply thrilled.

What did you like least about school?

I can’t think of anything I really didn’t like about school; it just was something I did every day for 12 years. I have always been a loner and would always chose books over people. We moved a lot, so I learned not to get too close to other children, it was easier to uproot myself that way. I am still quite good at accepting change and I don’t retain long-term physical friendships. I prefer my virtual friends who are constant and always there.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

Unfortunately, the quality of the public education in South Africa for underprivileged children has not improved much since 1994. Lots of children start learning English late in their school career (at the age of 10 or 11 years old) and it is difficult for them to cope with being taught in English.

There is still a huge shortage of school basics in many rural schools and children are still being taught under trees and in classes with few desks and chairs and even fewer learning materials. There are often no proper toilets for the children to use.

I belong to charities which donate books and stationery to underprivileged schools. A lot is done to help by the private business sector and individuals.

My sons both attend private schools and the college my older son attends is exemplary in its out-reach programme. It supports a disadvantaged college in a rural area and has a programme to train teachers from disadvantaged backgrounds. It also has a programme to help disadvantaged children with potential to achieve at school. This is run in the afternoons and the teaching staff freely give of the own time and skills. It is a sad that the public education is poor because our world is evolving into one where higher-level skills are becoming vital to get and retain jobs. English and maths skills are essential.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

I can only answer this question from the point of view of my own sons. Both of their schools have outcomes-based education programmes and this works so well. Their curriculums are marvelous and I often find myself thinking how much I would have enjoyed their schooling when I was a girl. My older son’s school has programmes to give accelerated learning opportunities to boys who find learning easier and support programmes for boys that find some areas of learning more difficult. They just do such wonderful things, read fantastic books and have marvelous learning opportunities. Of course, as with all things in life, you have to grasp opportunities or else they pass you by.

How do you think schools could be improved?

The most important thing in our government schools is to get good teachers. Teachers that aren’t masters in their subject will struggle to teach others, particularly, children that can’t learn in one specific way but need the information presented in another way. The children also need a safe learning environment, which often isn’t the case, and basic learning materials.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Robbie. It was interesting to hear the comparisons between your own schooling and that of your son’s current schooling. I was interested to hear your response to learning Afrikaans and was surprised at how late English was taught. The photographs of you from the newspaper are very cute and to be treasured.

Find out more about Robbie Cheadle on her blogs

Bake and Write

Robbie’s inspiration

And her Goodreads author page:


Connect with her on social media

Facebook @SirChocolateBooks

Roberta Writes

Twitter @bakeandwrite


Robbie’s books can be purchased from



TSL Publications

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King


D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.