Emma: Hello, my name is Emma Allen and today, I’ll be reading to you from my new book, “The Great Book-swapping Machine.”

Fabio lived on the edge of the outback, beside a highway, on his family’s wheat farm. Not many people ever stopped off at Fabio’s house. ‘Nothing around here,’ they said.

Then late one night, a thing landed. It appeared next to the letterbox, without warning. Fabio knew at once that it was important. But his dad called it ‘space junk’ and rang the Space Agency to ask them to take it away. The thing leaned apologetically, as if it understood it looked out of place.

There was a hatch at the side. Fabio opened it and climbed inside. He found a book on the pilot’s seat: A Daydreamer’s Guide to the Galaxy. Fabio took it home and sat up late into the night, reading and learning.

By morning, Fabio was ready to fly. He climbed into the machine and pulled the red lever. It shuddered and heaved. But nothing happened. Fabio threw the book from the hatch.

The next morning, the book was gone. He found a girl reading it, in the shade of the thing’s belly. ‘You!’ gasped Fabio. ‘You stole my book!’ He recognised her yellow bike. She was from the farm next door. Leila Thistlethwaite.

‘I borrowed it,’ she said. ‘Here.’ She handed him a bigger, fatter book, Poems for Flying at Night.

‘A book swap,’ said Fabio. He liked the idea. He liked it a lot. The thing shuddered politely, as if it liked the idea too.

Meanwhile, the Space Agency came with important tape. ‘Keep out,’ it shouted.

The next morning, Fabio opened the hatch.

‘Hello,’ said a voice. It was Leila. She was already choosing her next book.

‘This old thing is lonely,’ said Fabio. ‘It needs more people. ‘Leila agreed. She had an idea.

They made a big sign with red paint: ‘THE GREAT BOOK-SWAPPING MACHINE’. They put it on the highway. The thing shuddered happily, as if it might actually fly.

Meanwhile, the Space Agency sent three inspectors wearing sunglasses.

That afternoon, two cars, one motorbike and one bus stopped at the sign. Everybody admired the book-swapping machine. They all agreed to swap some books. A bikie called Vesper left Highway Heists.

Some tourists donated books about maps, walking trails and outback poetry. The President of the Country Women’s Association left jam and a cookbook. The Watson kids left behind some superhero comics and a book about wild desert animals. Everybody chose a book to take home. Fabio was so happy that he painted the hatch bright orange.

Meanwhile, the Space Agency put up their own sign.

[Description: big sign with the words: "CLASSIFIED, KEEP OUT! by order of the Space Agency"]

Soon, the thing was famous. Jed Watson had his fourth birthday under its belly. Vesper donated a deck chair. The bus driver swapped an old CD player for a book on How to Start a Scout Club. Leila grew some flowers around the main antenna. The thing grew fat and content.

One day the Space Agency called. ‘We are coming next week,’ they said.

‘Save our machine!’ cried the members of the new Scout club.

Vesper tied his deck chair to the landing legs. The bus driver spray-painted his bus. The ladies from the Country Women’s Association made tea and the Watsons started a petition.

Fabio thought about all the books they had collected. Then he had an idea.

When the junk collector arrived from the Space Agency, Fabio was ready.

‘Please sir,’ he said, ‘this is not space junk ...’ He thought very hard.

‘It is a library.’

‘A library!’ shouted the Watsons.

‘A library!’ cheered the ladies from the Country Women’s Association.

‘A street library!’ said Fabio. ‘In the outback.’

‘It is a great book-swapping machine,’ added Leila.

At exactly three o’clock, a very important woman from the Space Agency appeared. Fabio’s dad showed her the petition.

‘The Space Agency has come to a decision,’ said the woman through a loudspeaker. ‘The space junk can stay where it is.’

Everybody cheered. Even Vesper, who was midway through Poems for Night Travellers.

That night, alone with the thing, Fabio pulled the red lever. It shuddered and sighed. Then …It landed next to the letterbox, just as it had the first time. Fabio was filled with wonder.

It was generally believed that the street library never flew again. Instead it retired, happily, with a quiver and a sigh.

What book would you put in the Book-swapping Machine?

This one! I like this one. It’s called “Hairy Maclary’s Bone”. The biggest bone ever!

I would choose Harry Potter #5 because when you read it, it’s like you’re in a whole other world and you feel like you’re really there. All the characters are really funny and especially Ron Weasley.

The Snail and the Whale. It’s about a snail and a whale. It says “humpback whale”. It says “humpback whale.”

This is the Treehouse series. I like it because it’s really funny and it has hundreds of adventures in it.

If I could choose any book to go in the Book-swapping Machine I would choose “Bad Guys” by Aaron Blabey. They’re awesome!

I would put “Marie Curie” into the Books-swapping Machine. Because she is sciencey and the book is exciting.

Tune in at 9am AEST on Tuesday 14 September for Australian Reading Hour! Beginning as an event to encourage all Australians to set aside one hour on one day to read, it has transformed into an annual celebration of reading. Learn more about Australian Reading Hour.

This year, spend a portion of your hour reading along to 'The Great Book-swapping Machine' with author Emma Allen and enjoy the beautiful illustrations. Stick around after the story to hear some big reading recommendations from some of our community's smallest readers. What book would you put in the book-swapping machine?

About the book