Joy – Corrinne Averiss

Illustrations – Isabelle Follath

Fern adores her Nanna, especially her smile, but Nanna doesn’t smile much anymore.

“It’s like the joy has gone out of her life.”

“What’s joy?” asked Fern.

“Joy is what makes your heart happy and your eyes twinkle.”

Fern takes it upon herself to find some joy and borrow it for Nanna. All afternoon, Fern feels the “whooosh! of joy” but no matter how hard she tries, her catching bag remains empty.

Dejected, Fern returns to her Nanna and tells her about her mission and all of the joy she found.


I really liked the relationship between Fern and her Nanna. I loved that Fern was so determined to find some joy for her Nanna but at the same time it saddened me that she was so aware of Nanna’s depression and that she felt responsible for making her feel better.

Fern’s ideas for trying to essentially bottle joy were adorable. I loved the solution: time and connection with a loved one.

Isabelle Follath’s illustrations complemented the story. The characters are expressive and colour is used well to highlight different emotions. I particularly liked the colours and shapes used to depict joy when Fern is attempting to collect it.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and words & pictures, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Fern’s Nanna has not been herself of late. And when Mum remarks that all the joy seems to have gone out of her life, Fern decides to fetch the joy back. With her catching-kit at the ready, she goes to the park and finds joy in all sorts of unusual places. Whooooshh! But Fern soon realises that joy doesn’t fit in a bag, or a box or a tin! How will she manage to bring some back to Nanna?

Emotional, funny and uplifting, this beautiful picture book has a strong message about empathy and maintaining loving relationships with our grandparents. Guaranteed to bring a bit of joy into every reader’s life, this story is a pure delight.

A Little Bit Different – Claire Alexander

The Ploofers all PLOOF! Except for one, whose PLOOF! is a SHOOF! This Ploofer loves the thing that makes them different … until the rest of the Ploofers question it.

The other Ploofers all think the SHOOF! is weird. It’s outside of their comfort zone because they haven’t seen a SHOOF! before.


The judgement of the other Ploofers makes the SHOOF! Ploofer sad. They wonder why the other Ploofers aren’t accepting of the thing that makes them different.

It isn’t until Toasty recognises the beauty of this Ploofer’s SHOOF! and encourages them to embrace their difference that the SHOOF! Ploofer regains their confidence.


I loved the SHOOF! Ploofer and the message that it’s okay to be different. It can be scary to have the courage to be yourself, especially when the way you express yourself is outside of the norm, but there will always be those like Toasty who will value you for who you are.

Although the other Ploofers originally shy away from what is new, eventually they realise that different doesn’t automatically equal bad. By accepting the Ploofer who is different, the rest of the Ploofers learn acceptance and in doing so their own lives are brightened.

I naturally rebel against any system that asserts that because this is the way we’ve always done something, that’s the only way it can be done. You shouldn’t have to hide your unique gifts just because some other Ploofers are unwilling to think outside of the box. Meaningful change can come when we open ourselves up to possibilities we haven’t considered before.

I’m all for anything that celebrates diversity. In this book, it’s diversity of expression that’s addressed but this can be applied to all forms of diversity.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Happy Yak, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A light and fun story depicting the journey from ignorance to acceptance and celebration. A Little Bit Different by Clare Alexander is a beautiful story exploring acceptance and joy in being different. 

Meet the ploofers. The ploofers have been practicing something special which they all want to do at the exact same time – but wait! What’s that? One of them does something different! When one little ploofer goes against the usual flow of things, the rest of them turn their backs on him. But all it takes is for one person to recognise the beauty in being different to spark a change in attitude of everyone.

With simple and striking illustrations, A Little bit Different is a joyful reading experience for both you and your child, with the opportunity to spark more meaningful discussions about people’s differences and how we accept and value them. 

It’s OK Not to Be OK – Tina Rae

Illustrations – Jessica Smith

This is a good introduction to mental health for young readers. It provides basic information about some of the more common mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. There are also sections on bullying and discrimination.

While encouraging readers to seek help from a trusted adult if they are struggling, there are also plenty of ideas to boost their own mental health. These include self care, diet, exercise, managing stress, challenging negative thoughts and mindfulness.


Tips for parents and caregivers and lists of resources (apps, websites and helplines) are included at the end of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s OK Not to Be OK acknowledges and explores common mental health disorders such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Get the low down on these issues, why they happen and discover ways of looking after mental health in our fast-moving world.

This book will help children and young people develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Who Are You Calling Weird?: A Celebration of Weird & Wonderful Animals – Marilyn Singer

Illustrations – Paul Daviz

A few years ago I became mildly obsessed with a documentary series called Weird Creatures with Nick Baker. It sparked an interest in wonderfully weird animals I’d never heard of before or knew very little about, so this book essentially jumped out at me.

From the Pacific barreleye with its see-through head to the leafy sea dragon that looks like seaweed, this book provides an introduction to some of the world’s most unusual animals. It even includes a couple of my favourites, the star-nosed mole and the three-toed sloth.

I enjoyed the down to earth, conversational tone of the writing and the focus on conservation and how each animals’ differences help them, e.g., for camouflage or protection. I discovered some animals within the pages that were new to me and learned some interesting facts about some I was already familiar with.

The illustrations were colourful and fun with a dash of quirkiness. I would have liked to have seen a photo gallery accompanying them though (perhaps at the end of the book) as I found myself searching for photos of the animals that were new to me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Celebrate the weird, wonderful, and the downright bizarre in this compelling compendium of unusual animals. From the green fur of a three-toed sloth, to the pink and wiggly appendage of the star-nosed mole, there’s something new to marvel at on every page.

Delve into the forests, burrow under the ground, and dive into the deep to discover nature’s most peculiar creatures and learn about their behaviour, diet, and habitat, as well as folk beliefs about each animal.

Hidden away in Earth’s forests, caves, and oceans, these creatures might look or behave in peculiar ways but, as you will soon find out, every oddity serves a purpose:

  • The long, skeletal finger of an aye-aye, used by this lemur to tap on trees to locate hollow tunnels where delicious insects hide
  • The barrel-shaped eyes of a Pacific barreleye fish that turn upward to watch for prey above through its transparent head
  • The big, bulbous nose of a proboscis monkey designed to attract mates
  • The armour-like scales of a pangolin that are so tough that even lions and tigers can’t bite through them.

Come face-to-face with the most curious creatures from across the globe, and decide for yourself who’s the weirdest of them all. 

Dragons: Father and Son – Alexandre Lacroix

Illustrations – Ronan Badel

Dragons: Father and Son tells the story of a father attempting to teach his son the dragon tradition of burning down houses. Drake is not exactly proficient at fire breathing, having used his abilities for cooking snacks but nothing ever as big as burning down a house!

Drake finds that he’s not quite a chip off the old block when he flies to a nearby village the next day, ready to make his father proud. Humans don’t seem to be as ferocious as his father has taught him. Can Drake find a way to make his father proud and still stay true to himself?

I loved the expressions captured on particularly the father’s face in Ronan Badel’s illustrations. The father’s use of glasses near the end was a chuckle moment for me. The illustrations complemented the story well and I imagine children will enjoy the father’s cranky expressions at the beginning of the book and the son getting ready to burn down parts of the village in earnest to please his father. I really liked the drawings of the bats.

My favourite picture would have to be when Drake tries to go to sleep the night before he sets out for the village. The look on Drake’s face as he contemplates the next day’s activities is priceless and there was a special cute factor with him holding onto his bird’s leg while the bird sleeps peacefully.

Also, dragons!!! 🐉 😃

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Strokkur is a young dragon, whose father instructs him to act like a proper dragon – and to go out and set fire to some houses. But Strokker isn’t confident about his skills and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. How will be prove himself without upsetting his dad and everyone around him? A funny and moving story about the bonds between fathers and children, with a positive, peaceful message – and all the magic and mayhem you’d hope for in a tale about dragons.