Jul 11, 2020

Curious Kids Can Learn a Lot! (And a SLANG Challenge)

I'm always excited to hear about a new book from a talented, hardworking, and versatile friend of mine, Janet Halfmann. She is very prolific, and the style and target audiences for her many books range from infants to middle school, from folklore to nature, from family to historical biography, and even bedtime books. Her titles have won major awards, have been translated into many languages, and been named to countless "best of" lists.

Pen-It Publications, 2020

Her latest release is ideal for curious young readers who will love learning about Australian animals and slang expressions. A BOBBY-DAZZLER of a POUCHwritten by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Abira Das, releases this month and is jam-packed with the kind of fun and facts that have made her prior books such a success. As with several of her earlier books for this target audience (Star of the Sea, Home in the Cave, Fur and Feathers, Little Skink's Tale) this one reveals accurate information within the context of a story about delightful animal characters. It includes excellent back matter to highlight fun facts about kangaroos, other Australian animals, and a simple explanation for special  terms and expressions commonly used in Australia. 

In this story, the young 'roo, Joey, is learning to come quickly when Mum calls. His survival requires a speedy dive into his mum's protective pouch. Sounds like fun, but it's not so easy, since kangaroos travel in groups (a mob).  (Youtube video here.

Finding his own mum quickly presented a challenge. During practice, Joey seeks safe haven in an occupied pouch, annoys a pouchless male, and is determined to solve his problem creatively. In the process he makes friends with various native animals, each contributing colorful feathers, prickly quills, and more. His busy day continues into night with nocturnal creatures joining in. 
Along the way, Joey decorates his mum's pouch with a colorful pattern that will be easy to spot in a crowd and assure future success. His encounters introduce readers to some of Australia's most unique and appealing creatures, providing simple facts about their habits and habitats. In this story of creativity and friendship for little readers, nature and science facts are presented in digestible bites, including fun word play and Australian slang. 
The colorful and crisp illustrations have a cartoon-like quality that portrays the animals naturally but allows them to talk and interact in human ways. The style also softens the food-chain-predator reference when mum notices a dingo on the prowl and Joey's solution allows him to reach safety. The text and images together will have little ones drawing pictures and searching out new details about the amazing natural world "down under".

Among the many things I admire about Halfmann's writing is how well she creates high quality text for such varied purposes, subjects, and ages. In this and similar titles noted above, the language, sentence length, and word choices are appealing and entertaining for young folks, but also accessible for emerging readers eager to take ownership of the telling, and eventually the reading. In her traditional picture books she enhances narration with rhythms and patterns that elevate lyrical style (Grandma Is a Slowpoke). For older readers her biographies convey complex characters, unfamiliar historic times and settings, and tense conflicts with urgency and drama that bring the past to life. (Midnight Teacher: Lily Ann Grandson and Her Secret School, Seven Miles to Freedom, and The Story of Civil War Hero Robert Smalls). In all cases, readers (and parents) can trust that information included is well-researched and accurate.
I encourage you to check out this latest book. It is bound to become a favorite for kids who love animals, especially Australian ones. While you're at it, click the active links in her other book titles above, and explore her full website, here:


You can also follow her updates about  continuing releases, her glorious garden (and kitchen magic) and her beloved family by following her on Twitter @JanetHalfmann

Anchoring this in COVID19 time and BLACK LIVES MATTER Movement:
Demonstrations continue, generally peaceful, informative, and effectively moving the conversations forward about ways to begin to unwind the racial injustices so deeply entrenched in our social, legal, and educational systems. 
Those participating in marches are usually wearing masks, which is more than I can say for the general public. As shown in this article in National Geographic, my Midwest area is the least compliant with the advice of health agencies and medical experts to wear masks in public. That's why I avoid going out unless necessary and don't always feel safe when I do. 
Australia has done a much better job getting Covid19 under control. They've had some slang fun along the way. They call corona virus "the Rona", isolation is "iso", and sanitizer is "sanny". I couldn't find a face mask slang term yet, so why not try creating your own personal or family slang? It could make the habit of wearing a mask more fun. 
I'll start the ball rolling with  "chin pocket", or "smile sling", or "nose nest". 
I am particularly bugged by folks who have a mask on but leave their nose hanging out, so that last one would be my choice. As in, "Hey, mate, your nose nest is slipping off."
Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments, or start a social media trend for funny names- it could make the idea of wearing a mask much more appealing!
Stay safe, speak out, and keep reading!


  1. Sandy, thanks so much for your fantastic review of A Bobby-Dazzler of a Pouch! Hope everyone will have fun learning about kangaroos and their home. And I love the challenge about thinking of a fun slang word for the masks we're all wearing these days--I love "nose nest." Can't wait to see readers' suggestions! Happy Reading to All!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Janet. I agree that readers will have loads of fun with your new book. I'm picturing kiddos adding artwork to the fridge door with a proud declaration that their latest work is a bobby-dazzler!
      Can't wait to see what you bring to the table next, whether it is a rhubarb crumble or a new story to share.


Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.