The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Film review


M classification (mature theme, coarse language)

Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes

Director: Hettie Macdonald

Stars: Jim Broadbent, Penelope Wilton

In English; drama. 

Harold Fry, living a quiet life in South Devon, receives a letter advising that Queenie Hennessey, a former work colleague, is dying of cancer. She’s in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a town just south of the Scottish border. He writes a reply and tells Maureen, his wife, he’s off to post it.

As he walks to the post office, he has the eccentric idea to keep walking. He leaves a message for Queenie at the hospice to say he’ll continue to walk and she’s to continue to live.

Meanwhile, Maureen is at home wondering why it’s taking so long to post a letter.

Harold meets an assortment of characters on this journey: a young woman in a garage shop who encourages; a silver-haired businessman who unloads a burden; a lady doctor who’s taken a job as a cleaner; and many who are searching for a purpose in life. It becomes a pilgrimage.

Harold has time to reflect on the past. There’s tragedy, regret, grief, and guilt. And always our suspicion that this punishing walk may be a penance. An action that has been repressed. Something that involved Queenie Hennessey, perhaps.

The film, adapted from the novel by Rachel Joyce, will not appeal to all. It is slow moving, subtle and melancholic. There are no car chases or action-packed fights between goodies and baddies. However, the outdoor views are magnificent, the cinematography admirable, the film score applicable, and the acting superb.

Reviewed by Clive Hodges

Find out more about the film

Talkin’ Chalk by Rebecca West


Author Rebecca West, a particularly innovative Deputy Principal, sets a collegial, positive tone by reflecting and sharing why she decided to become a teacher. She encourages beginning teachers to reflect on their own ‘why’ within the dynamic, ever-changing field of education.

Talking Chalk: 10 tips for beginning teachers is pitched at those beginning teachers with younger learners (eg kindergarten, primary, foundation, or prep); however, it’s valuable for teachers in any classroom context. Much of the advice relates to planning and organisation, navigating oneself within a new school territory, managing expectations and workload, building relationships, and being kind to yourself and colleagues. Each chapter/tip features easy-to-read, practical tips, anecdotes, and advice.

The handy illustrations/photos and one-page summaries (‘Keep your storage tidy and clearly labelled to separate personal and school-allocated resources,’ ‘Include the students in creating learning displays,’ ‘Share successes regularly.’) are beneficial. First tip is planning your classroom setup to ensure a comfortable learning environment. Everything from resources, storage, and the layout of student seating, furniture, and classroom walls is explored and discussed. The book’s later chapters offer helpful tips on education-specific tasks and documentation (eg designing and developing Individual Education/Behaviour Plans, Personalised Learning Pathways, timetables, daily/weekly schedules, and student reports) that will streamline a teacher’s role.

Talking Chalk: 10 tips for beginning teachers encourages teachers to monitor and manage their time, tasks, workload, and wellbeing as professionals in the workplace. It offers advice on the value of seeking colleague support and what to do when work becomes cumbersome and teachers might be at risk of burnout. The chapters on setting expectations – incentives, support materials, and managing noise – and reflecting on one’s teaching practice are insightful and valuable.

As a former casual teacher, I particularly liked ‘Tip 9: Be kind to the relief teacher’ and the welcoming suggestions. Additional advice is offered when teachers deal with those unexpected problems as diverse as wet shoelaces, tricky-to-open chip packets, birthday cupcakes, permanent markers, hand-picked bunches of flowers and ubiquitous student farts. Online extras include links to YouTube clips (featuring the author) and editable templates for letters, schedules, reports and other handy school documentation.

A valuable book for any beginning teacher.

Click here to download the templates in Word.

Click here to download the templates in PDF.

Reviewed by Mark Parry

Mark Parry educatorMark Parry is a learning designer, teacher and digital content producer with over 30 years of experience in teaching, curriculum development, digital media production, and teacher professional development. Mark has worked across various educational sectors including schools K-12, vocational, higher education, corporate and community education. He reads mostly non-fiction.

The Concrete Garden by Bob Graham

Amanda lives on the 15th floor of a huge block of apartments. It’s been a cold, cold winter but she’s standing at the lift doors waiting to go down, holding a big box her mum gave her.

The lift doors open and it’s filled with other children, she squeezes in with her box.

Out from the building the children spill, ‘like sweets from a box’. Amanda is last with her box. The box is full of chalks.

Amanda chooses green first, drawing a pattern on the concrete ground, Jackson came along and added a stalk to her pattern, making a picture of a dandelion. Janet worked on making a picture of a mushroom. Bradley added flowers. Luke’s dog Alfie was in trouble for smudging the flowers.Indira added a palm tree! There were suddenly butterflies, balloons and a bumblebee.

From the concrete rose a beautiful garden.

Nasri is lonely for her mum in Isfahan so she takes a picture from a balcony from up high and sends it with a message to her mum. Her mum shares the picture and it goes around the world, filling the hearts of those who see it. The people in the concrete apartment block all come to their balconies and applaud.

This story shines a light of hope and joy after the years of being separated by the pandemic or for those who have loved ones far away. And, even though we may live in a city environment, we can have colour and importantly always have our community.

Bob Graham is such a clever writer and illustrator. He allows the children to show us that you can always find the joy in life and we can do it together.

Reviewed by Jane Stephens
Age Guide 3+



Bob Graham Australian author and illustrator
Bob Graham is a Kate Greenaway-winning author-illustrator who has written and illustrated many acclaimed children’s picture books including How to Heal a Broken Wing, How the Sun Got to Coco’s House, Max, Jethro Byrde: Fairy Child and April Underhill: Tooth Fairy. His 2011 title, A Bus Called Heaven, is endorsed by Amnesty International UK and was the winner of the 2012 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Award – a prize Bob has won an unprecedented six times. In 2014, Silver Buttons was awarded a prestigious Prime Minister’s Literary Award in Australia. Bob lives in Melbourne.

Read more about the author

The Balloon Blow Up by Andy Geppert

Would you like a balloon?
Yes please, Elly. Can you make it big?
How big?

That’s a tricky question isn’t it. But Elly the elephant needs to know as the little girl has asked her to blow it up.

What is big? Big like her fishbowl? Or her bike? Maybe as big as a hairy mammoth. Or wait, like the moon!

But if the ballon is blown up as big as the moon surely it will pop. Let’s let a bit of air out and the little girl can tell Elly when to stop. Maybe a little smaller, like her new kitty cat, or her favourite hat.

Uh oh, the ballon is not cooperating until they have a contract. That’s the best way to be safe.

The Balloon Blow Up goes to show you that even just one decision can be quite a complex thing. It can take quite a bit of thinking.

Reviewed by Jane Stephens
Age Guide 2+



Andy Geppert author and illustratorAndy Geppert is an award-winning Art-Director turned picture book author and artist who weaves insightful charm and irreverent humour into every story he tells.

His witty take on the everyday, painted in delicate and gentle colours will draw you into worlds and stories you won’t want to leave.

His work has been awarded the prestigious Crichton Award for new illustrators for his work on Little Big Tree. MEEP was selected as a Notable Book by the Children’s Book Council of Australia. His latest picture book Australian Backyard Birdies was this year recognised by the Australian Book Design Awards and made the cut for the best non-fiction book of 2021 by Bookstagang Australia.

Visit Andy Geppert’s website


Mizuto and the Wind by Kaye Baillie

It is just another ordinary morning when Mizuto farewells his father as he leaves for work. His father will be travelling on a new seaside route to get to work today. As his father travels along the coast road, out beneath the ocean the ground is groaning and shifting. The sea heaves and hurls, creating giant waves that speed towards the shore. They smash into the coastline. Then they were gone. And so were many things.

Mizuto is very sad. He imagines his dad returning every night. He can’t find his happiness. He misses his mother’s smile. His feelings grow as big as an ocean.

One day he overhears people talking about Kaze no Denwa. It is a phone connected to the wind. A way to talk to missing loved ones.

Mizuto decides to look for the phone so he heads out to Otsuchi. He walks through the tangle of rubble and mud that were once homes. He reaches the top of a hill to discover the phone booth. He lifts the receiver. Psssh! Was that the ocean? Or the wind? Or …

This book is inspired by the tragedy of the tidal wave that struck the coast of Japan. It is the story a little boy’s journey of grief and how sending his words through Kaze no Denwa, into the wind, helps Mizuto and then his mother find some inner peace. A way to restart their lives together.

Mizuto and the Wind brought giant tears to my eyes. It is a story of great sadness but also of great hope. Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki’s illustrations simple and beautiful. They provide a strong sense of place and allow us to share Mizuto’s emotions.

A beautiful book.

Reviewed by Jane Stephens
Age Guide 5+



kaye Baillie authorKaye Baillie is a writer of fiction and non-fiction children’s picture books. She has a Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. In 2022 her picture book When The Waterhole Dries Up was shortlisted in the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book Awards and many of her picture books have won or been shortlisted in awards such as the NSW Premier’s History Awards, West Australian Young Readers Book Awards, Speech Pathology Australia Book Awards and the Children’s Peace Literature Award.

Her work has been published in Australia and internationally. One of Kaye’s passions is bringing stories about remarkable people to young readers.

She is an active member and the Assistant Co-ordinator of SCBWI Victoria, Australia and is a member of the Children’s Book Council of Australia. She lives in a coastal town in Australia with her family.

Visit Kaye Baillie’s website



Luisa is a professional illustrator, artist and teacher based in Victoria. After spending over a decade in Japan, her personal style has developed with influences from vibrant Japanese culture, mixed in with art of today and traces of the coast and ocean where she lives now.

She uses inks, watercolour, acrylic, pastel, pen and pencil to create her colourful imagery traditionally and digitally manipulates them.

Luisa’s style varies but is underpinned by her Fine Art training and love of colour.

She has illustrated over 30 books in both the education and trade markets and also creates original works for clients.

Follow Luisa Gioffre-Suzuki on Instagram