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Ottoline Goes To School By Chris Riddell



Warning this review has spoilers do not continue to read if you do not want to know about what happens in  “Ottoline goes to school’ by Chris Riddell don’t read on.  You have been warned.

The main character in the story is Ottoline. Ottoline is a girl about my age. She lives in Pepperpot building with her best friend Mr. Munroe. Mr. Munroe is from a bog in Norway. Mr Monroe is not a human, he is short and hairy and he doesn’t speak. Chris Riddell never really tells you ‘what’ Mr. Munroe is.

In the beginning of the story, Ottoline and Mr. Munroe go to the park and she meets a girl named Cecily. Cecily has a little horse named Mumbles. After meeting in the park, Cecily and Ottoline keep hanging out at the park. Cecily is taking Mr. Munroe’s spot in the friendship. She is always taking his stuff like the birdseeds, twigs, swing, crumbs for the ducks and Mr. Munroe’s umbrella. Not long after meeting and becoming friends Cecily has to go to school for the ‘Differently Gifted. Ottoline now wants to go to the same school. Ottoline asks her mum and dad if she can go. Ottoline’s parent don’t really live at home because their always collecting stuff, so going to a boarding school wouldn’t mean missing out on seeing her mum and dad. Ottoline doesn’t mind that she lives on her own with Mr. Munroe most of the time because she has many people to take care of her.

Ottoline’s mum and dad send her the school for ‘Differently Gifted”. At the school Ottoline meets and invisible boy called Brian who has a pet invisible dog called is Bodge. Other characters at the school are the twin girls Orvillise, and Wilbura. The twins have a pet bird named Richard. Another boy at the school is called Newton. Newton is super smart and instead of a pet he has a robot, Skittles. There is also a princess from Pahang, called Sultana. She has a pet elephant named Bye-Bye. There are other cool characters as well. All of the students go to this school because they all have unusual gifts, read and discover what these gifts are. They are so cool.

The story builds in excitement, as there seems to be a ghost haunting the school. There is tension as Ottoline wonders about what her gift will be.

Cecily tells a scary story and all this kids believe it and all this mysterious stuff happens. It is up to Ottoline and Mr. Munroe to solve the mystery and help everyone feel safe again. It turns out that Cecily did it strange things by disguising her horse as a ghost. She did this because all because she missed her parents. I thought was a bizarre reason at first but when you discover that she had to make an appointment just to get her parents to tuck her. She must have been really lonely.

I thought that ‘Ottoline Goes To School’ was funny book. I couldn’t put it down. I almost went to school in pajamas because I was so busy reading it I forgot to get dressed.

I would recommend this book to anyone aged from 8 -99. It is a good book for boys and girls because all the characters are fun and no-one is interested in soppy or mean stuff.

It was funny funny story. I kept on asking questions like who is the ghost? Why did Cecily try to take Mr. Munroe’s spot in the friendship? I like reading books where you always have a question because it makes you want to read more and more and more. I finished two other Ottoline books in the next two day and now I am reading Goth Girl by Chris Riddell.


Chris Riddell is a clever illustrator and author because I kept being able to visualize what was happening either by using the words or by the hidden clues in the pictures. As I was reading I kept on connecting to the characters and stopping to summarize what I had read.

I do recommend this book. Chris Riddell is by far my favorite author and illustrator. I just love how he uses all the senses when he describes or creates an image for reader to embrace. I love how Chris Riddell can almost take the reader to place where the events, objects and characters feel so real because of his descriptive words. This is why I recommend this book. You must read it at all costs.

Thank you for reading my review.


To Love A Sunburnt Country By Jackie French (2014)

I really loved this book. Firstly there were characters from earlier books that tell the story of females that sit beside some of the iconic stories and poems from Australia’s early white colonial periods. These books include The Girl from Snow River and The Road to Gundagai.

This is the story of Nancy of the Overflow and how she, her sister-in-law and her baby nephew became World War 11 prisoners in a Malaysian camp run by the Japanese. The book invited me into this rich story of how Nancy at 16 survived not only physically but also mentally in heart aching conditions.

The book flips backwards and forwards between what is a happening at “home” (Australia) and what is happening for Nancy and other inmates of the prison camp.

One of the things that I became aware of was how carefully balanced the story was. It could so easily have become so depressingly sad or portrayed Nancy so romantically heroic as to be hard to swallow.

Instead the book was balanced in a way that people living out circumstances that were grim, generous, loyal, mean, savage, tender, hope-filled, purpose-filled and kind held my attention and carried me into all those spaces in a way that had me realizing that I too would be capable of all those behaviors (that’s not always comfortable or pretty I can tell you).

There was quite a lot attention paid to food in the book and my grandmother told me of stories she knew about where these foods were a part of her mother’s experience.

I loved the strong sense of belonging that came though the story, how this could survive all sorts of hardships.

I loved that the main character was female and strong and resilient.

I loved the notes at the end of the book, they were very rich and offered all sorts of jumping off places for new understandings.

I loved this book, my mother loved this book, my Auntie loved this book and my grandmother loved this book.

For someone who hasn’t lived in Australia this might be an interesting book, especially the attention paid to how the landscape captures peoples’ hearts and minds.

This is probably not a book to read at bedtime, because once you start you can’t put it down. Pretty difficult when there’s school next day.

Morgan-Belle 16


Jumpstart the World by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I don’t think that there are words that can accurately describe this book. The basic plotline focuses on a 15-16 year old girl who is forced to move out of home after family changes, and issues with mother, whom she has a strained relationship with. She befriends her neighbours, and begins to form an independent life for herself. However, she soon finds out some truth about her friends that force her to look inside herself and question why she sees the world in the way she does. This book speaks of many different representation issues surrounding different group in an observant, objective, yet very intelligent and witty way. The book tackles our perception of the world around us, and makes us look at ourselves, and think objectively and clearly about how we think, and small, unknown prejudices that we may subconsciously hide. The book contains some terms and language that may require discussion, and I would recommend it for readers who aren’t afraid to challenge their ideals of the world. I think this would be a wonderful book to introduce to advanced readers in junior to middle high school, but would also resonate with people in the senior sector and in the wider world. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of this book. It’s not your average novel. Even though it looks like a walk in the park, it will affect you in ways you didn’t expect.


Reading for understanding

Teaching about Migration and Immigration

Often when I pick books to go with a unit, I find it hard to find age appropriate books that have content that fit exactly with a theme or topic. When faced with this dilemma, I return to the concepts that are driving the unit and find books that fit with that theme. I also look for books that will bring an idea close to home, a book whose text can be used as a jumping off point. Moving readers from a close experience to exploring it as a wider idea

Recently I was fortunate enough to work in a classroom, where the class were investigating migration and immigration. It was hard locating books that dealt with the bigger ideas of the level of agency and choice, evacuation, even the ideas of cultural isolation.  So I came home and raided my bookshelves to see what I could discover.

Here are the books I linked to the big ideas of migration. Enjoy. Some of the attitudes and attributes link with the IB programme, others are new or broader ideas that I have encountered in different teaching frameworks.


The Way Back Home  By Oliver Jeffers  (Print/ Picture book)

A simple way to introduce ideas about travel and how it can be both exciting and frightening. Exploring ideas about communication barriers and problem solving. The book can also be used to discuss when people do and don’t have the choice about returning home.

Attribute: Communicator    Attitude: Curious

Skill: Problem Solving and communicating

Knowledge: Different forms of communications; Not everyone is the same; Adventures can be scary sometimes

Understanding: Understanding difference; Change involves risks and challenges and possibilities


Running with the horses  By Alison Lester   (Print Novelette Picture book)

A picture book for older readers. It deals with a young girl and her father fleeing a war torn city with some horses and the companionship that develops over the journey. Simply told, but complex in imagery and emotion.

Attribute: Knowledgeable, Caring

Attitude: Appreciation, Commitment

Skill: Making choices,

Knowledge: Refugees have little choice in how and when they travel

Understanding: Companionship and responsibility, Choice and agency


Tyrannosaurus drip   By Julia Donaldson Ill. David Roberts                               (Print Picture book)

Simple text that deals with ideas of not-fitting or belonging. Simple way to introduce ideas of persecution as a reason that may influence someone to migrate.

Attribute: Thinker

Attitude: Empathy, Confidence

Skill: Problem Solving, making informed choices

Knowledge: Knowing about safe and unsafe spaces and relationships, ideas about persecution

Understanding: Difference can result in persecution; Safety can be a choice; People migrate for different reasons


Tortuga By Paul Geraghty    (Print  Picture book)

A text based on the migration of a tortoise because of climate conditions, and the hardships faced in a new setting.

A simple way of introducing ideas about climate and the need to connect this to migration, introduces the idea of climate change evacuees.

Attribute: Determination

Attitude: Resilience

Skill: Staying safe

Knowledge: Meeting needs, climate changes; forced migration

Understanding: Climate and climate change affect the migration of all living things; Environments meet different needs


Let the celebrations begin   By Margaret Wild   Ill. Julie Vivas                    (Print  Picture book)

A powerful picture book about the Concentration camps of WW2. The book is set at the end of this war. It is about remembering and companionship and finding ways to stay strong as a community despite extreme hardship, forced migration and persecution. A powerful and thoughtful text that deals with complex situations without adding the weight of the world onto the reader’s shoulders.

Attribute: Caring, Determination and Balance

Attitude: resilience, empathy, integrity

Skill: Creating and making do with what you have

Knowledge: Concentration camps, WW2, persecution

Understanding: Community can be powerful, Remembering can keep us connected to action


Say Hello By Jack Foreman Ill. Michael Foreman    (Print  Picture book)

A picture book about acceptance and inclusion. It is told from the perspective of two characters and what it feels like to be welcomed. A simple way to begin explorations of how a migrant or refugee might feel in a new place. Can open discussions about acts of inclusion.

Attribute: Communicator, Principled

Attitude: Cooperation, empathy

Skill: Communication

Knowledge: How to join in, how to include,

Understanding: Inclusion is a choice and an action; Communities are based on acts of inclusion


My Two Blankets  By Irena Kobold   Ill. Freya Blackwood                                      (Print  Picture book)

The story is told from the perspective of a young African Muslim girl. She shares why her family moved and what it feels like. The images provide deeper insight than the simple text. The character talks about her remembering of traditions and artifacts and then finds a way to connect with a new girl her own age. The girls discover and share things that they have in common and that are different. Slowly the new ideas merge with the main character’s traditions and she finds a way of holding onto her identity from the past and emerging identity in this new space. Exploring ideas of refugees, not migrants by choice.

Attribute: Communicator, knowledgeable, reflective

Attitude: Creativity, Integrity, empathy

Skill: Moving and dealing with change; finding ways to communicate, remembering

Knowledge: Knowing about one’s culture, valuing one’s culture,

Understanding: Identity and culture are connected, Change in culture can lead to change in identity, Staying connected with the past in ways that inform and enrich the future


A child’s garden By Michael Foreman    (Print  Picture book)

A wonderful text for introducing the complexities of war on communities. It explores idea about division and forced separation. While the character does not migrate or become a refugee, it is a good text for introducing why some families are forced to make that choice. It is also about acts of agency in desperate situations.

Attribute: Thinker, open-minded

Attitude: Commitment, curiosity, appreciation

Skill: gardening, meeting needs, valuing beauty

Knowledge: Daily needs, life in a war torn space

Understanding: Acts of agency can lead to change. Change can begin with small acts. Prejudice and power are connected,


For Every Child – The rights of the child in words and pictures                             (Print  Picture book)

An introduction to the rights of the child by a variety of artists. It is an interesting text to use to compare what the legal differences/ rights that migrants, refuges or asylum seekers have under international law.

How does migration affect children, how are their rights protected?

Attribute: Knowledgeable, thinker

Attitude: Empathy, commitment

Skill: informed choices

Knowledge: The rights of the child in the UN charter for human rights. The legal difference and entitlements for different migrating groups (refugee, migrant, asylum seeker)

Understanding: International law exists, but is not always enforced, law is a social construct acted upon by agreeing parties; Children are recognized as group under international law


Farewell to Shady Glade By Bill Peet    (Print Picture book)

A story about a group of animals that get pushed off their land by development, and the changes and problems they face when trying to flee, relocate and resettle.

A simple way to introduce the idea of being a refugee. It can also be used to bring forward that humans are not the only living things affected by power, choice and change, thus forcing migration.

Attribute: Thinker

Attitude: Commitment, resilience, ability to adapt, perseverance

Skill: Adapting to change

Knowledge: Habitats meet the needs of living things; refugees are living things forced to flee for safety

Understanding: Living things adapt to change, Not all change is by choice, Safety is a key aspect of community, refugees have limited choices


Refugees   By David Miller    (Print   Picture book)

This is an interesting take on the notion of refugees. The story follows the path of 2 ducks forced from their habitat by development. As they are forced to move, they become refugees and undergo many of the same experiences of terror, adaption, fear and forced relocation of human refugees. A simple yet powerful way of exploring the ideas that choice and migration are connected to who holds the power.

Attribute: Thinker

Attitude: Commitment, resilience, ability to adapt, perseverance

Skill: Adapting to change

Knowledge: Habitats meet the needs of living things; refugees are living things forced to flee for safety

Understanding: Power and Choice influence migration choices


Our House  By Michael Rosen    (Print  Picture book)

It is often easy to sit and speculate how people should welcome and include refugees and migrants, but what if it was happening in your back yard? Would you let refugees and migrants into your home?

The book ‘This is our house’ deals with a group of kids fighting over a cubby. It is a great way to introduce the notion of “would I share my house with others from a different background, religion, belief system” and “If I did what might the consequences be for everyone?” The text can be used to open up discussions about the complexities of sharing limited spaces and resources or making different belief systems work in the same space. The book is a jumping off point for bigger discussions.

Attribute: Balance

Attitude: Empathy

Skill: making choices,

Knowledge: need and wants, Sharing spaces and resources,

Understanding: Choices are different in reality than in a hypothetical situation, resources are limited, refugees and migrants need space in the new lands they live in, people from different backgrounds don’t always share the same ideas


Mirror By Jeannie Baker   (Print  Picture book)

Many children who have not travelled, or have travelled in closeted ways may not understand the complexities and diversity in cultures and the differences in daily lived lives. In order to support readers understanding that immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are coming from very different places and have very different beliefs, traditions, lifestyles, etc., this book can be used to discuss and begin exploring how life might change and what impact these changes might have on identity, feeling safe, belonging?

Attribute: Knowledgeable, inquirer, open-minded

Attitude: Curiosity, appreciation, empathy

Skill: Recognizing needs and differences, being respectful, developing awareness

Knowledge: Cultural traditions, Similarities and differences in daily lives;

Understanding: Culture is connected to identity, Migrants’ choices are impacted on by outside powers and forces, People are different everywhere in the world, People share basic needs, but express themselves very differently; Migration can impact on identity, change and movement will impact in daily life routines and traditions and identity


Meerkat mail   By Emily Gravett  (Print  Picture book)

This is another great book for comparing the difference in daily lives and routines. A meerkat chooses to travel and experience the lives of many other meerkats in new countries. In travelling the main character comes to realize that there are reasons why he feels at home in his place.

In order to support readers understanding that immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are coming from very different places and have very different beliefs, traditions, lifestyles, etc., this book can be used to discuss why things are different in different places and what might it feel like to have to move to somewhere foreign. Would the amount of choice one had in a move, impact on the way one could adapt or feel when in the new space? How might these introduced changes impact on the current community?

Attribute: Knowledgeable, inquirer, open-minded

Attitude: Curiosity, appreciation, empathy

Skill: Recognizing needs and differences, being respectful, developing awareness

Knowledge: Cultural traditions, Similarities and differences in daily lives;

Understanding: Culture is connected to identity, Migrant’s choices are impacted on by outside powers and forces, People share basic needs, but express themselves very differently; Migration can impact on identity, change and movement will impact in daily life routines and traditions and identity

Book Room Review


Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

I read this book during winter of last year, and became completely enthralled in it, a state in which I remained up until the very last page. The book tackles a topic I had very little knowledge about prior to reading it. Salman Rushdie takes the complex issue of Indian and Pakistani independence, and frames it expertly though the eyes of a child born perfectly in line with the independence of India. Saleem Sinai realises he possesses a power unique to the midnight children, who share the same birthdate. As he communicates with them, he begins to become caught up in the conflict that lead to the India-Pakistan split, as well as family tension such as his mother’s secrecy, and his father’s increasing mental health issues. Midnight’s Children casts a spell over its audiences that lingers until the very last word, and remains for a decent few days afterward. It tells the story so innocently and beautifully, and all the while, it is educating it’s audiences about a much-neglected topic within history. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about India, Pakistan, or just looking for an exciting, all-encompassing book. The language can be difficult to understand, so I feel like this book may be difficult for some less experienced readers. I also found it helped to discuss the content with another person. I found this book absolutely amazing, and it still remains one of my favourites.

Asha-Mae (13)

Literacy Tip

BCW is interested in the reviews young readers are contributing and offer their understandings and appreciations as a way to make visible  some of the variables that play a part in a reader’s enjoyment and engagement.

We are curious about what catches and holds the interests of readers but also illustrates an important understanding about young readers. Readers can be supported to choose books against  a range of criteria. An example of some of the criteria a reader can use to choose a book include:

  • what holds the reader’s interest
  • to provoke a particular emotional response (humour)
  • fit the reader’s skill (example decoding, comprehending, connecting etc.) and ability
  • suits the reader’s purpose
  • connection to illustrative style
  • favoured authors etc.

It is hard to label or group a book to a chronological age or gender as readers are as varied as the texts available. It is more useful to know your readers and skill them up as choice makers than it is to know your library and the levels that exist in it.

Book Room Review


The Day The Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt & Oliver Jeffers. 2015.

This book was fun, easy to read and had me thinking a bit about how I treat my pencils and crayons.

The book was also funny and had me laughing. I think lots of different ages will enjoy this book.

I thought the illustrations were marvellous. I like how characters from other Oliver Jeffer’s books appeared in the pages.I liked how the illustrations had a fit with what the words were saying, but not always. (Hint….. have a look at the Amazon forest page.)

This is a good book to read if you want to relax after school or when you are going to bed. I could read this a hundred times and not get bored with it.

Neon Red is my favourite crayon.

My Mum read it and laughed a lot.


Reviewer: Lilly-Bea  (10years)

Book Room Review


Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales. The Pied Piper of Hamelin. Illustrations by Chris Riddell.

This is a short and funny book. It makes the concept “normal” an idea to be challenged and explored.

I like how the story pays attention to many characters, it doesn’t focus just on the main character, Sam.

I love the illustrations, they are quite silly, very detailed, kinda cool and they really add to the story. On every page there is a small character you have to search for and locate, I enjoy this sort of task.

I think this is a good book to go to bed with. Some of the language might be tricky for eight year olds, so it would be a good book for someone older to read it to them.

Some of the language is pretty funny and will probably make you laugh.

I don’t think I’ll ever be too old for this sort of book. That is a book that has some history, some character development, some normal book bits and some crazy silliness.

I’d prefer to read this book in hard copy, because I’d read it at night and for that I prefer not to read on a screen, this way I can just read the book till I fall asleep.

Reviewer: Dante (14years)

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