Maxine Beneba Clarke (text), and Nicki Greenberg (illustrator), Aussie Kids: Meet Taj at the Lighthouse, Puffin Books, February 2020 64 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760894528
Belinda Murrell (text), and David Hardy (illustrator), Aussie Kids: Meet Zoe and Zac at the Zoo, Puffin Books, February 2020 64 pp., RRP $12.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781760893651
These titles are part of a new series for independent readers. Meet Zoe and Zac at the Zoo is set in Dubbo at the Western Plains Zoo. Zoe and Zac are “almost twins”. They were born on the same day, in the same hospital, and now they live next to each other at the zoo. Their parents are zookeepers and Zoe and Zac are about to have their first experience as junior zookeepers as they help Zoe’s mother feed the animals. It is their seventh birthday, and this is a special birthday treat. When they go to the lions, they become worried about Amali, the lioness, as they cannot see her anywhere. After returning from feeding the other animals Amali still cannot be found, so they drive into the enclosure and find her, with her own birthday surprise for Zoe and Zac.
In Meet Taj at the Lighthouse we learn about how young Taj and his parents came to live in Australia and how he came to live at the lighthouse. Having to flee their homeland, family and friends, Taj and his family found it hard to settle in a new country. Everything is so different and difficult. When things begin to get a little easier Taj’s dad is still unable to find work, but his mother is optimistic, encouraging them all to believe. Eventually Taj’s Dad does find work and they settle in a small town by the sea.
These books have so much going for them. Short in length, illustrated with monochrome colour, these are perfect for developing and newly independent readers. The illustrations support the reader well and add to the narrative. The inclusion of chapters allows the reader to feel as if they are reading a novel, having made ‘reader’ status. A double page spread of fun facts can be found in the back of the book for further reading. There are eight books in the series, all set in different locations around Australia. These books will not only be popular with young Australian readers but will make excellent gifts for young ones in other countries.
These are a must for all school libraries, classrooms for young readers and public libraries.
Reviewed by Liz Derouet