My Little Story Corner

For the love of picture books

REVIEWS

Picture Book Reviews

Categories

Animals / Pets  

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ANZAC Day

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Australia 

Babies / Toddlers

Christmas

Easter

Humorous

Nature / Natural Disasters

Parents / Grandparents

Parties

Song, Poem and Rhyme

Starting School

Categorised in alphabetical order (by title)

A

9781742974620A House of Her Own, Jenny Hughes (author), Jonathan Bentley (illus.), Little Hare Books, 2014.

Audrey proclaims to her dad, ”Your house is getting too small for me”. So, a most obliging father takes his little girl outside in search of a more suitable place to live. A house high up in the tree is perfect! After all, Audrey is bigger than she was yesterday.
Handyman dad gets to work on a beautiful circular staircase, a hanging bathtub for snorkelling, a spot for sipping tea, a comfy blue bed, chairs for guests and a stove – all at Audrey’s request. The tree house is magnificent! But what happens when Audrey realises that she might get cold and she’s run out of food? Once again, dad has just the right solution!

Jenny Hughes has created this wonderful dialogue between Audrey and her dad; an independent, knows-what-she-wants little girl and her accommodating father. The images by Jonathan Bentley are breathtaking as we watch via differing perspectives of this amazing renovation coming together up in the sky. The vibrant watercolours and textures add a gorgeous touch of energy that so brilliantly captures the dynamics of each scene.
‘A House of Her Own’ is an enchanting story of love and dedication, with a sense of big adventure but also affirming one’s sense of security, that is sure to get preschoolers reaching up to their bookshelves for another read, again and again.
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9781922179760 A is for Australia, Frané Lessac (author / illus.), Walker Books, 2015. (See also Midnight and Ned Kelly and the Green Sash).

Described as a ”factastic tour of Australia” and a ”celebration of Australian people, places and culture.” Exactly that, Frané Lessac’s ‘A is for Australia’ is a colourful, informative and truly engaging book visiting various locations around our amazing country. With each letter of the alphabet, we are introduced to many of Australia’s fascinating and iconic landmarks, covering every state and territory. From our beautiful beaches, to the dry outback, busy major cities and temperate rainforests, this book provides ample opportunity to get to know more about geographical places and the flora, fauna, people and structures that can be found there. Riveting facts accompany each location, including indigenous and cultural history. For example, the Sydney Opera House, designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon, took 16 years to build and opened in 1973.
There is plenty to experience with this bright, aesthetically pleasing and engrossing information book about our special continent. It is perfect for families to share (and create) their own memories and experiences, and for primary school children to utilise for their Australian studies.
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a-swim-in-the-sea-1A Swim in the Sea, Sue Whiting (author), Meredith Thomas (illustrator), Walker Books, 2013. Speech Pathology Australia Winner 2014.

‘A Swim in the Sea’ is a gorgeous story of an excitable young Bruno who can’t wait to experience the big blue sea for the first time. Wildly eager to dive right in, Bruno suddenly halters at the loud, thumping, pounding waves, which frighten him. As his family introduce him to other fun beach activities, like rockpools and sand cities, Bruno eventually discovers that the big blue sea is far from scary.
Sue Whiting’s text is beautifully descriptive and engaging. I love the way she talks about the sea; ”wobbling like a sparkly blue jelly”. And Meredith Thomas’ illustrations are equally expressive, bold and moving with bright, complimentary colours that almost literally wash over the pages.
A delightfully sunny story about first-time experiences at the beach, and facing one’s fears.
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accidentally+awesome ‘Accidentally Awesome!’ , Adam Wallace (author), James Hart (illus.), Krueger Wallace Press, Mar 2015.

Have you ever done something so embarrassing that actually made you a hero? Have you ever hurtled down a hill on your bike, only to fortuitously crash into a handbag thief and save the day? What about setting off an airshow of false teeth in the old age home, only to have them miraculously reunited with open mouths? Well, Jackson Payne has done these things. But he didn’t mean to. He became totally awesome by accident.
In Adam Wallace and James Hart’s ‘Accidentally Awesome’, young readers will relish every bit of Jackson’s highly entertaining, yet somewhat unbelievable, journey that sees him come full circle.
With loads of slapstick comedy to have you bursting at the ribs, this story is not for the faint-hearted. Head butting crooks, rescuing half-frozen cats, and pleasing old, slobbering ladies give Jackson plenty of reason to want to quit fluking happy endings. But when he does, this causes more problems like blood noses, squashing innocent birds and allowing bank robbers to escape. Super evil villain doesn’t suit him either, so deciding to help people on purpose seems like the way to go. Jackson ropes the bank robber in to his genius plan; to use his ‘accidental awesomeness’ for stopping him from mugging Mr Popadopolus, the cupcake man. When his plan doesn’t exactly, well, go to plan, Nan is there to teach him some life lessons, in a roundabout, obtuse, confusing kind of way. The point: Be Yourself.  After long thought, some rest and a giant sun cupcake literally visiting him in his dreams, Jackson finally realises that being lucky is something to appreciate and helping people is reward in itself. In a hilarious ending involving Jackson and the bank robber, and a whole big rhyming debate, he returns to true form of being his clumsy ‘accidentally awesome’ hero self once more, and saves the day.
Adam Wallace’s language is clever, conversational and completely comical. His wit is sharp, with phrases like, ”If I tell the absolute no-lie stick a needle in my eye truth…” (Get it? Needle = Sharp!). And equally humorous and expressive are illustrator, James Hart’s energetic drawings that perfectly compliment the ludicrous situations in the story. ‘Accidentally Awesome!’ is highly recommended for kids from six years old who are looking for an engaging laugh-out-loud (LOL!) read.
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9781921966248An Aussie Year; Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids, Tania McCartney (author), Tina Snerling (illus.), EK Books, 2013.

What a joyous celebration of all things Australiana, all encompassed in one gorgeous book; An Aussie Year. From January through to December, with every season in between, from Melbourne to Sydney’s City to Surf and the Great Barrier Reef, we get a taste of Australian life for five young individual children of different cultural backgrounds. Ned, Zoe, Lily, Kirra and Matilda provide us with snippets of their typical ethnic traditions, seasonal activities, food, terminology and special events that occur throughout the year. From icy poles, cricket, swimming and Australia Day in January, to back-to-school, Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year in February. April brings Easter, Anzac Day and the Antipodes Festival, and creepy-crawlies and Mother’s Day breakfast are common occurrences in May.
Tania McCartney’s Aussie culmination continues with plenty more fun and interesting experiences as told by the kids, beautifully capturing our wonderful multicultural nation. The pictures by Tina Snerling illustrate that diversity perfectly; they are colourful, creative, rich and varied in what they portray, and very sweet.
An Aussie Year is a wonderful learning resource for primary aged children, as well as an engaging and delightful book just to peruse and reflect upon for both young and old.
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AllMyKissesAll My Kisses, Kerry Brown (author), Jedda Robaard (illus.), ABC Books, 2014.

Another book about inspiring generosity is this story of a loveable piglet in All My Kisses. Abby is very kissable. She receives lots of kisses at bedtime, and likes to collect them in a special bucket. Abby is over-protective, claiming the kisses are too precious to share around. The overflowing bucket of kisses eventually turn into bleak, grey pebbles, so she discards of them in the playground. Soon Abby discovers that her pebbles are more than just that; they are a source of joy and delight for other children, with magical glowing properties at night. Abby eventually realises that sharing her kisses makes them much more valuable than keeping them to herself.
The message of spreading warmth and togetherness flows across the pages, depicted by the soft and gently painted pig characters. All My Kisses is a tender story about encouraging affection. It is a beautiful bedtime story for toddler to preschool aged children.
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B

Children's+Book+Review,+B+is+for+BedtimeB is for Bedtime, Margaret Hamilton (author), Anna Pignataro (illus.), Little Hare Books, 2014.

Here we have a beautiful lyrical lullaby that sings us through an alphabetical routine from awake time to catching zzz’s. A little girl and her puppy dog settle for bed with the help of their loving family. A Book read by dad and a ticking Clock on the wall, “Dd is my Dog, who’s not sleepy at all.” Gran gives a Hug and mum gives a Kiss. The Moon shines on her Nose. Eventually she is Quiet and as she goes to Sleep, she cuddles her Teddy Under the covers, Yawns and hushes until morning.
Anna Pignataro’s illustrations are as sweet and harmonious as the gentle tempo of the words. I love the fluidity of the watercolours and gouache and the patterns of the collage.
‘B is for Bedtime’ is perfectly paced to soothe young ones into a cosy slumber, to be enjoyed each and every night.
CBCA 2015 Early Childhood Notable Book.
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Baby BeatsBaby Beats, Karen Blair (author, illus.), Walker Books, 2014.

Toddlers will love joining in to the rhythm and beat with this group of young children playing on their instruments. ‘Baby Beats’ immediately sets the musical tone, inviting the readers to make sound with their hands and feet. We explore beats and booms on the drums, bangs and clashes on the cymbals, tapping sticks and the chick, chick, chick of the shakers. All the strumming and singing eventually exhausts these tiny superstars as they lay down to rest.
Gorgeous, soft crayon and watercolour paintings set against white backgrounds effectively gives focus to the performances of the characters. The little details in the pictures like the funny actions of the cat, and the additional ‘home-made’ instruments also lend themselves to further enjoyment and ideas on creating your own music at home.
‘Baby Beats’, with its inclusive onomatopoeia, is a perfect book of sounds and rhythm and the introduction to a range of musical instruments.
CBCA 2015 Early Childhood Notable Book.
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July 2014
9780670075195
Baby Bedtime
Mem Fox
Illustrated by Emma Quay
Penguin Books, October 2013.
2014 CBCA Shortlisted Early Childhood Book of the Year

As a mother of two beautiful girls, it’s difficult to describe the amount of love you have for your babies. When I read ‘Baby Bedtime’, I was in awe of the way the notable picture book writer, Mem Fox has so completely captured that love and adoration through her sweet, gentle rhyming lullaby. This is gorgeously illustrated as a mother elephant who playfully, yet so calmingly, settles her baby for bedtime.
But it was Mem’s recount of how the words came to be, that really stole my heart. She whispered the love poem to her tiny premature grandson over and over, as she adored his precious little features, hoping that he would know how much she loved him.

I could eat your little ears.
I could nibble on your nose.
I could munch your tiny fingers.
I could gobble up your toes.  

baby-bedtime-inner
These soothing lines are matched perfectly with the breathtaking pictures by acclaimed illustrator, Emma Quay. The images create that sense of warmth and familiarity, through the use of real materials, textures and patterns, including doilies, fabric and wicker. Emma’s soft crayon purple elephants, that are mother and baby, add that gentle touch that is so harmonious with this charming story.

Mem Fox has almost literally poured the love in her heart on to the paper with ‘Baby Bedtime’. With the support of Emma Quay’s illustrations, she has successfully created a lullaby to soothe all babies for a peaceful night’s sleep, and a beautiful way for parents to express their unexplainable, but ”absolute” love for their little ones.

Read the story behind the story on Mem Fox’s website: http://memfox.com/gossip-behind-mems-books/baby-bedtime-illustrated-emma-quay/

Baby Bedtime
Available for purchase from Fishpond ($24.99 free shipping)

Baby Bedtime
Available for purchase from Boomerang Books ($19.99 + $6.95 shipping per order)
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August 2014
books-1
Banjo and Ruby Red
Libby Gleeson
Illustrated by Freya Blackwood
Little Hare, 2013.

Banjo and Ruby Red has been shortlisted for the 2014 Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Early Childhood Book of the Year Award, and rightfully so. It is an emotive story that tugs on the heart strings, created by the dynamic duo, Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood, who also collaborated on award-winning Amy and Louis, Half a World Away, and Clancy and Millie and the Very Fine House.

Banjo is an old farm dog and Ruby Red is a haughty chicken, and they never see eye to eye. Can they ever be friends?
This funny and touching story of antagonism and love is by award-winning author Libby Gleeson, with illustrations by internationally acclaimed Freya Blackwood.  

Bark. Bark. Bark.
Banjo is the best chook dog. He works hard and always successfully hustles all the squarking chooks back to roost. All except Ruby Red. She’s more interested in watching the sky, giving the old dog more exertion than he needs.
But one day, as Banjo is rounding up the chooks, he discovers that Ruby Red is nowhere to be found and he searches all over the farm. Our hearts drop when we finally find her lying still with her eyes closed.
Will Ruby Red survive?

It is through true loyalty, care and compassion that Banjo takes the chicken’s life in his own paws. He lays with her, keeping her warm for days, and we watch as a miracle unfolds before our eyes. It is the finale that captures the most heartwarming, touching moment, so warmly depicted in the beautiful illustrations.
Bark. Bark. Bark.
Squark. Squark. Squark.
Chooks fly into the yard, peck at the ground and settle on their roosts.
Except Ruby Red.  

I love how illustrator, Freya Blackwood has integrated feelings of both still and movement, calm and chaos; from the smooth lines of dozing animals to the sequences and rougher sketching of a leaping Banjo and wildly flying chickens. She has also cleverly used text to add to the impact of the noisy animals, to draw the reader right into the scene. The soft earthy tones of the paint, mixed with the outlines and shadows of black pencil, are perfectly suited to an active chook dog rounding up lively chickens in a farm yard.

Banjo and Ruby Red is an absolutely gorgeous story about the friendship between a lovable, spirited dog and an obstinate chicken, with a touch of humour, and stunningly captivating illustrations. Definately a book to capture the hearts of readers of any age.

This review can also be viewed on the Boomerang Books blog page:
http://blog.boomerangbooks.com.au/review-banjo-and-ruby-red-by-libby-gleeson-and-freya-blackwood/2014/08

Banjo And Ruby Red
Available for purchase from Fishpond ($24.95 free shipping)

Banjo and Ruby Red
Available for purchase from Boomerang Books ($19.96 + $6.95 shipping per order)
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9780763670757Big Red Kangaroo, Claire Saxby (author), Graham Byrne (illus.), Walker Books, 2013.

Another native animal to Australia is the symbolic kangaroo, and in ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ by Claire Saxby (author of other Aussie themed books including Meet the Anzacs and Emu), the typical behaviours of these large marsupials is explored in both a storytale and informative format.
‘Red’ is surrounded by his mob, and at nightfall they bound off in search of grasses. Did you know that kangaroos sometimes regurgitate their food to help with digestion? The mob are met by other creatures looking for water in the middle of the dry season. But they cannot settle when other male kangaroos are nearby. Red is the male leader, but is soon challenged by another to take over his mob. A brief fight for dominance sees Red retain his role as king, and he takes his followers to the safe shelter amongst the trees.
A compelling account, written with sophisticated, descriptive language, and enlightening charcoal and digital media illustrations to match. Equipped with an index and plenty of information, ‘Big Red Kangaroo’ is the perfect learning tool for primary school aged children.
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C

9781922081322January 2015
Calpepper’s Place, Trudie Trewin (author), Donna Gynell (illus.), Windy Hollow Books, 2014.

In ‘Calpepper’s Place’ we are taken on a journey with a range of Australian animals around our beautiful continent. It is an adorable story of acceptance, and trying new adventures.
Calpepper is a camel who decides one day that trudging through the hot desert just isn’t exciting enough. He jumps aboard a bus named ‘Adventure Tours to the Unknown’, and in a trialing series of experiences, Calpepper discovers these places are not the places for him after all. Whooshing down chilly ski slopes, being trampled by an avalanche of shoes in the concrete jungle, and tumbling off a wave onto the beach shore are not camely sorts of places. Finally, a little ray of sunshine gives him the comfort he needed and he returns back to plod along with the camel train once again.
A rhythmic story with fun, varied text and expressive language, gorgeously fluid and whimsical watercolour illustrations, make ‘Calpepper’s Place’ a truly engaging way to explore our scenic country and appreciate your own special place to call home.
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Celia-&-Nonna-Cover-WEB Celia and Nonna, Victoria Lane (author), Kayleen West (illus), Ford Street Publishing, 2014.

There is something so precious about children spending quality time with their grandparents. Every word and every image, beautifully interwoven by author Victoria Lane and illustrator Kayleen West, pour warmth and affection out of this book and into the hearts of its’ readers.

”Celia loves sleepovers at Nonna’s house.” And Nonna just cherishes the moments they spend together; baking cakes and biscotti, cuddling and reading bedtime stories. But one day Nonna begins to forget things, and she moves to an aged care home where she will get the appropriate support. At first Celia struggles to grapple with the new arrangement, but her resilience, sensitivity and love allow her to accept the change, strengthen their bond, and bring joy and ease to Nonna. Gorgeous sentiments in Celia’s drawings help us, the reader, to remember and appreciate that no matter where we are, all we need are the ones we love.
Kayleen West’s illustrations are soft, timeless and emotive. I love the meaning attached to the realistic children’s artwork that are significant to both Nonna, and to Victoria Lane. I also love the clever connection between Celia and the swallows who follow Nonna and stick by her on her life journey.
Celia and Nonna; a message of embracing hard realities, finding strength and faith, an uplifting and important tale to share, all packaged perfectly in a delightful picture book.
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51wdwNe+JBL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Chooky-doodle-doo, Jan Whiten (author), Sinéad Hanley (illus.), Walker Books, 2014.

This one’s not musical as such, but is ideal as a preliminary to finger games and songs about numbers. ‘Chooky-doodle-doo’ is a whimsical counting story with some rhyming elements to keep little ones joining in all the way through. One chick finds what it thinks is a worm and gives it a good tug. Enlisting the help of another chooky chick, the pair huff and puff, struggling to get this worm free. The story continues with subsequent numbers of chookies pulling on a continually elongating worm. Five chicks and a rooster cannot shift the stubborn squirmer, and with a final flop and a chooky sprawl, they discover that the worm is not actually a worm afterall!
Adorable, funny and interactive. With colourful handcrafted and digital illustrations, young preschoolers will love the humour and playfulness of these cheeky chooks.
CBCA 2015 Early Childhood Notable Book.
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resized_9781743315279_224_297_FitSquareThe Cleo Stories: The Necklace and the Present, Libby Gleeson (author), Freya Blackwood (illus.), Allen & Unwin, 2014.

In two delightful chapters we meet a little girl named Cleo, who brilliantly solves some real life problems. In ‘The Necklace’, Cleo envies her friends as they show off their glamorous jewels, but all Cleo has to offer is a jumper she received at Christmas. Unable to wait until her birthday, Cleo takes the initiative to gather her resources and creates a beautiful, unique necklace on her own. The next chapter, ‘The Present’, sees Cleo desperate to give her mum a nice present for her upcoming birthday. She’s wracked her brains, emptied her piggy bank, and even got herself into a very sticky mess attempting to piece an old broken bowl back together. Finally, Cleo cleverly presents her mum with the best gift ever!
Once again, this dynamic duo that is Libby Gleeson and Freya Blackwood have created a stunning book for young readers, with such a loveable and relatable character that is Cleo. Gleeson’s text is suited to both independent readers, as well as being an engaging read aloud story to those in the early stages of reading. And Blackwood’s illustrations are just gorgeous, soft yet complimentary of the energy and personality of the creative little girl.
The Cleo Stories is a charming short chapter book of a girl with resilience, ingenuity and flair. If she hasn’t already captured your heart, she will! I can’t wait to find out what she has planned in the next instalment of The Cleo Stories (Book Two coming out in 2015).
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D

Bza6SorCYAAMLHq Digby’s Moon Mission, Renee Price (author), Anil Tortop (illus), Tadaa Books, 2014.

Digby Fixit is a curious boy with a keen interest in a ‘banana-thin’ moon. With his dishevelled appearance and abundance of energy, Digby enlists the help of his friends; creating havoc in his poor mum’s kitchen, to embark on a mission to solve the mystery of the slivered moon. It takes a whole week to concoct the clever plan with a delicious array of gourmet meals, which most surprisingly, are catapulted into the vast atmosphere that is space.
Day after night, Digby measures the moon’s illumination, from starving to full to exploding, until it is a perfectly plump ball bursting with light. But it is also bursting with food! How will the moon react?
Renee Price’s text delightfully integrates a mix of fun, age-appropriate vocabulary and dialogue with whimsical rhyming prose. Illustrations by Anil Tortop are colourful, humorous and expressive; perfectly suiting the action and wit in the storyline. The smoothness and softness of the drawings and colour palette are also a fine fit with the lush feel of the pages. Digby’s Moon Mission is a ‘super-duper’, charming and imaginative story; exploring teamwork, diversity and plenty of teachable concepts. Children from two years old will enjoy this adventure all the way to the moon and back again, and again, and again!
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Duck and DarklingsThe Duck and the Darklings, Allen & Unwin, 2014.
CBCA Picture Book of the Year Shortlisted Book.
NSW Premier’s Literary Award Nominated Book.

In similarity to ‘Scary Night’ (pictures by the same illustrator),‘The Duck and the Darklings’ is disposed to the darkness, with just a glint of a glimmer that so significantly paves the way to a brighter future. With more of a complex storyline than the previous two books, ‘The Duck and the Darklings’, is written creatively and almost poetically by Glenda Millard. Its message is strong with the metaphor of dark versus light to represent ‘disremembered’ yesterdays versus the glow of forbidden fondness (happy memories). With this theme, Stephen Michael King’s illustrations are spellbinding. He has created depth, texture and warmth amongst the darkness. His characteristically adorable characters are hand-drawn as outlines and set against the silhouettes of black and white; shadow and light, past, present and future, that hit Millard’s intention so brillliantly.
‘The Duck and the Darklings’ is a heartwarming story of family, friendship and optimism that is beautifully captured in its words and pictures. Primary school children will definately hold a candle to this shining star. Stunning.

See the full review and teaching notes for The Duck and the Darklings here.
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E

October 2014
9780646921266Elizabeth Rose on Parade
Jaquelyn Muller
Illustrations by Kathryn Zammit  

Balloons and balancing acts. Clowns and cotton candy. Music and magic. Popcorn and parades. What child wouldn’t be curious and excited by the colourful lights and costumes, festivities, animal antics and amazing tricks seen under the circus tent?
In the sequel to I Love You 5 Lollipops, Elizabeth Rose is back to amuse and entertain us in Jaquelyn Muller’s Elizabeth Rose on Parade.

Even the most glamorous of showgirls, prettiest of puppy dog bows and funniest of clowns don’t compare to how Elizabeth Rose delights and enchants with her dog training skills. Not the bravest of strong men, balance of stilt walkers and a Gypsy hoop thrower are more amusing or surprising than the talent of a hoola hooping, tin can-stilt-walking Elizabeth Rose.

Elizabeth Rose on Parade is a wonderful book about a little girl who certainly sparkles and shines above the rest, even in an extraordinary and exciting world in the Big Top. With lots of vibrant characters and hidden lollipops to find, a recommended read for pre-school aged children; girls in particular.

See the full review at Goodreads.
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F

Fire, Jackie French (author), Bruce Whatley (illus.), Scholastic Press, 2014.

fireHarsh weather conditions are terrifying enough at the best of times, but what about when Mother Nature plays a hand in the wild and extreme that gamble with actual lives?
Award-winning author and Australian Laureate, Jackie French, together with the unequivocally talented illustrator, Bruce Whatley, have joined forces in producing a gripping and stunningly haunting book of adversity; ‘Fire’. Just like their previous book, ‘Flood’; depicting the horrendous Queensland floods in 2011, ‘Fire’ is another efficacious story of courage and strength in the face of a natural disaster.

Throughout the book are amazing, succinct verses that take your breath away with every word. The story begins with a serene outback set amongst golden hills and limp gum tree leaves. Upon turning the page, we are faced with the sudden impact of ferocious orange flames and black smoke, sending a once peaceful cockatoo fleeing for its life. Ramifications advance, affecting the people who live amongst the burning trees as the fire engulfs the land in a thunderous, cackling roar. Pretty soon, whole page spreads bleed with blood-red paint across the atmosphere, and thick grey ash that forces inhabitants to quickly escape the “gulping smoke and singed debris.”
Fire book imageNext, a gut-wrenching image of the oven swallowing houses, trees, the land. What about the aftermath? Loss, grief, disbelief. But the bravery of the firefighters and the safety of loved ones is what is appreciated most. From pain comes the strength of the Australian spirit, as we see the CFA tending to sick animals, and read of those friends who give love and help rebuild a world burnt bare. And eventually, the Earth is reborn once again.

See the full review at Boomerang Books here.
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Fish jamFish Jam, Kylie Howarth (author, illus.), The Five Mile Press, 2015.

Who doesn’t love a scit-scatting-dooba-diddling jazzy sea-minor fish? Unfortunately, all the creatures in the sea. Toot the fish beep-bops his way around the ocean, only to be shooshed by grumpy seals, lobsters, penguins and killer whales. He is just too noisy. But one day he comes across a most unexpected surprise that changes his solo singing days forever!
‘Fish Jam’ is such a fun way to explore music through the instrument of your voice. Author / illustrator, Kylie Howarth has produced a bubbly and entertaining story through her minimal text and vivacious cartoon-style pictures.
Preschoolers will be ‘o-fish-ally’ overjoyed to chant along with Toot for plenty of pipe sessions, no matter who’s listening!
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G

go-to-sleep-jessie--1Go To Sleep, Jessie!, Libby Gleeson (author), Freya Blackwood (illus.), Little Hare Books, 2014.

A little girl cannot sleep while her baby sister occupies the same bedroom…and screams. No amount of comfort and pats from Mum settle baby Jessie. No amount of sweet stories and lullabies from Dad settle Jessie. The girl is frustrated beyond words, but when Jessie is taken out and all is quiet, she still can’t sleep, and finally comes to realise the perfect solution… A little bit of sisterly love and affection goes a long way.
A really gentle and endearing story that delicately explores the struggles of sleep-time routines. I love Libby Gleeson‘s descriptions of the baby’s behaviour, paired with the raw emotions of the older sister. I also love Freya Blackwood‘s whimsical and dynamic images that show these feelings with vignettes and contrasting tones of orange and blue.
Go To Sleep, Jessie! will melt your heart. It is perfect as a bedtime story at the end of the day, and especially for children who understand the joys and angst of having a younger sibling.
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2015-01-07-15-06-02--1990215886Granny Grommet and Me, Dianne Wolfer (author), Karen Blair (illustrator), Walker Books, 2013, CBCA Shortlist 2014.

An enchanting book about a boy narrator who delights at the sea’s wonders, with his Granny and her elderly, grommet friends (a grommet is a young or beginner surfer). There is much humour in watching old ladies twisting, turning, zooming through dumpers and riding a curler wave to the shore! However, the boy feels nervous about what he doesn’t know, but Granny reassures and shows him safe and friendly things in the sea.
Lovely, gentle text by Wolfer, from the perspective of a child, beach safety tips, and fun, colourful paint and pencil drawings by Blair, make Granny Grommet and Me an engaging and reassuring story to be read many times over.
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IMG_8433 ‘Gus, the Asparagus’, Kaylene Hobson (author), Ann-Marie Finn (illus.), Dragon Tales Publishing, 2015.

There are moments in life that make us stop and adjust our perspectives on the world. Even encourage us to see the world from another’s point of view. Author Kaylene Hobson and illustrator Ann-Marie Finn from Dragon Tales Publishing have achieved just that by introducing us to their new, loveable character, Gus. ‘Gus, the Asparagus’ is a story targeted towards children and families with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, promoting awareness through this valuable and entertaining resource.

Gus is a part of the Green Family. He is the only asparagus, but he doesn’t mind. Despite his differences, they love him anyway. But upon entering school, Gus finds it difficult to ‘fit in’ with the other fruits and vegetables. Cleverly, the story integrates some of the challenges that a child with Autism may face; like highly distracting birds and misunderstanding the rules in a ‘rolling’ race.
A diagnosis of ‘Asparagus Syndrome’ sees Gus finally thrive as others become more aware of his needs and help to make adaptations to his environment. And the best part is, Gus makes a friend who doesn’t mind his upside down, asparagus ways… being different is okay.
‘Gus, the Asparagus’ is a simple story that clearly defines its’ message of accepting differences in yourself and others, yet in a humorous, light-hearted manner. The mixture of explanatory narration and amusing dialogue is like watching a children’s television show! Whimsical, goggle-eyed characters and bright, bold colours that Ann-Marie Finn has illustrated perfectly suit the playful text by Kaylene Hobson.
A sweet, charming and significant book for families, teachers and specialists, and all primary school children to connect with, whether on the spectrum or not. ‘Gus, the Asparagus’ is sure to spear your hearts with its juicy goodness!
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514TikhmbnL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Hooray for Hat!, Brian Won (author / illus.), Koala Books, 2014.

Hooray for Hat! is an entertaining story that explores feelings, generosity and friendship. Depicted with a black scribble above his head and a wrinkled brow, Elephant woke up feeling grumpy. But an unexpected present at the door soon changes his mood. A marvellous multi-tiered hat immediately cheers up Elephant. Here, the book makes full use of the double page spread by turning Elephant on his side and includes large, colourful text, ”HOORAY FOR HAT!” Eager to show Zebra, Elephant discovers that he, too is grumpy. ”Go Away! I’m Grumpy!” As the story continues, Elephant carries on spreading the cheer by gifting each animal with a magnificent hat, bringing them out of their terrible mood. Showing concern for Lion’s friend, Giraffe, the group plan a spectacular surprise; a very grand, loving gesture.
With gorgeously strong and colourful illustrations, repetition and boldness of the text, Hooray for Hat! is a fun read-aloud book about friendship and compassion that young children will love.
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July 2014
770-20140326142434-Cover-concept_Hootie-the-Cutie_LR-237x300
Hootie the Cutie
Michelle Worthington
Illustrated by Giuseppe Poli
New Frontier Publishing, 2014.  

Hootie the Cutie, an enchanting, sweet story about a brave and determined little owl.
Hootie was so aptly named by her friends for being the smallest and cutest owl in the magical wood. Her protective father worries about her safety and ability to cope in what he believes to be wild and dangerous situations. Although, it is clear that Hootie longs to join in the fun and prove that she should not be underestimated.

”Hootie didn’t like being the smallest owl. She wanted everyone to think she was brave and strong.”  

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When strange noises and smoke come from a dark, abandoned cave, Papa Owl’s feathers are ruffled. But Hootie the Cutie is confident that she has the courage, and size, to solve the mystery of the unknown. Showing leadership and encouragement towards another magical creature, Hootie certainly proves to be a hero.

Giuseppe Poli has beautifully illustrated Hootie as the prominent character with her pink fluffy feathers easily visible on each page. His whimsical, magical watercolour pictures of elves, fairies and cute animals are enchanting and fun, with a lot of colour and movement to engage young readers.
Michelle Worthington has written a gentle story with a simple message; that heroes come in all shapes and sizes (even small sizes), we can be proud to be unique and have belief in ourselves. The author wants readers to understand that a safe place and support of family and friends will enable them to take risks, and therefore enable growth. Hootie the Cutie is a heartwarming story suitable for retelling, and for revisiting the gorgeous illustrations over and over.

Hootie the Cutie
Click on the image to purchase from Fishpond ($23.99 free shipping)
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1733911_origHop Up! Wriggle Over!, Elizabeth Honey (author, illus.), Allen & Unwin, April 2015.

Distinct to her charmingly boisterous style is Elizabeth Honey’s latest celebration of our unique national fauna; ‘Hop Up! Wriggle Over!’ is a completely adorable book of an Australian animal family bouncing through a busy day.

With glorious onomatopoeia in short, punchy bursts, the baby mammals jumpstart the day with a scene parents know all too well. No more rest for the wicked; Mother Koala and Father Kangaroo are soon hustling as the daily routine begins.
”Hop up! Wriggle over! Wakey wakey. Hungry.
Crunch crunch. Gobble gobble. Lick lick. More!
Bong! Bong! Clang clang! Ting ting! Shhhh!”

With nine little ones to attend to, breakfast is like a clanging, tinging orchestra of bowls and spoons. A trip to the playground is like running a marathon trying to keep up with their abundance of energy. Tea time sounds of nibbles, chomps, slurps and burps. And bath time is bubblicious pandemonium. Finally, the kidlets settle for a story, and kisses, snuggles and sweet dream wishes see the babes peaceful at last.
As playful as the text, Elizabeth Honey’s illustrations radiate life, animation and spirit. Typical toddler-like actions in the pictures suitably mimic the frolicsome hubbub that the words express. At the same time, her pencil and watercolour paints create a gentle feeling in its technique and natural earthy tones; perfect to capture the warmth and innocence of this loving family.
‘Hop Up! Wriggle Over!’ is a beautiful introduction to different Australian animals and the reinforcement of the daily routine. It is a book of romping good fun, but also a nice way to end a busy day. What could be better than a story and a snuggle with your precious ones just before bed? An enchanting, lively book recommended for babies and young children, and their mums.

See the full review at Boomerang Books here.
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Hurry Up Alfie, Anna Walker (author / illus.), Scholastic, 2014.

Alfie is plenty busy… too busy to get ready to go out. This fun-loving, easily-distracted and stubborn crocodile typically finds handstands more important than eating breakfast, as is chasing Steve McQueen the cat. And looking for undies unexpectedly leads to the discoveries of missing items and different ways to use your pyjamas. What else?! Alfie thinks he’s finally ready. It’s coming up to midday on the clock, and an ever-so-quickly-losing-patience-parent informs him that it is not an umbrella needed but rather some clothes! The battle to get dressed eventually ends when a compromise is made, and parent and child make their way out, but there’s sure to be a re-match when it is time to go home!
All too familiar are the daily joys of negotiating with an ‘independent’ child, and Anna Walker does it with so much warmth and humour. Her trademark illustrative style of watercolours, pencil, textured patterns and photo collages once again so perfectly compliment the gentle and whimsical storyline, as well as adding to the detail and movement, and making each scene so real.
Hurry Up Alfie is the perfect back-to-school book for young ones with the same autonomous attitude.
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June 2014
9780670076154
I’m a Dirty Dinosaur
Janeen Brian and Ann James
Penguin, March 2013.  

What could be more relatable to young children than a head shaking, tum tapping, feet stamping, tail flicking, fun loving dinosaur that romps and rolls around in the mud? We watch as this cheeky dinosaur gets dirtier and dirtier by the page, and finds fun, active ways to move about with his freshly muddied body parts.

I’m a dirty dinosaur
with a dirty face.
I never have a wash
I just shake about the place.  

Could it be true? Will this grubby dinosaur never have a wash?

Award winning author, Janeen Brian has completely connected with the adventurous nature of young children. She has also set for a delightful and captivating experience between adult and child with the perfect rhythmic flow and rhyming onomatopoeia throughout the book.
And not to mention the wonderful illustrations by award winner, Ann James. Her simple yet expressive magic pencil drawings and realistic (really realistic) splatterings of mud are so complimentary to the expression and colour that exudes in the text.

stamp, stamp, stamp,
Stamp about the street!

Finally, the thick pages and rounded edges are ideal for little hands… a clever and well-thought-out design. An interactive, engaging, and visually pleasing picture book with a very relatable and lovable character makes this story truly charming for its’ intended audience.

To purchase ‘I’m a Dirty Dinosaur’ please click on Boomerang Books.
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9781921504402Jeremy, Chris Faille (author), Danny Snell (illus.), Working Title Press, 2013.

One of the wonderful elements of Australia is our exotic and amazing wildlife. The king of the bush is no exception. In ‘Jeremy’, a heartwarming story is brought to reality with the events of a growing baby kookaburra over the course of several weeks. Starting out as an ugly, featherless chick, Jeremy is brought in by the family cat and cared for by its loving family. Descriptive language allows the reader to learn his behavioural traits and aesthetic characteristics. As the story develops, we also become familiar with his personality; as an endearing and cheeky little bird, who loves to watch television and spy the goldfish for lunch. Stumbles and crashes are all part of learning to fly. But once established, a final kiss goodbye sees Jeremy reunited with his kookaburra family as they fly away into the sunset together.
Based on a true story, ‘Jeremy’ is a beautifully written and engaging information story by author Chris Faille. Illustrator Danny Snell has provided equally soft and detailed acrylic paintings. Preschoolers will adore learning about the kookaburra’s development and fascinating facts, as seen in the endpapers, as well as showing them the need to care for defenceless creatures.
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July 2014
9781742834955
King Pig
Nick Bland
Scholastic, June 2013.

King Pig can make the sheep do anything he pleases… but can he make them like him? A royal romp from best-selling picture book creator Nick Bland.  

King Pig is ruler, and he wants his subservient sheep to adore him, well, at least like him. Because he can, he barks orders at them, even makes them clean up his mess in the middle of the night. But King Pig is ignorant and oblivious to how he is really treating them. And he wonders why the sheep complain a lot.
With reference to ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, this pompous pig thinks that the sheep will like him if his clothes are ‘fancier’. So, once again, King Pig, with the best (and worst) of intentions brings the sheep into his ‘nice, warm’ castle to knit him clothes with the wool off their own backs. With his new, spectacular, colourful and fancy clothes, do the sheep now pay any attention? Do they adore him? NO! What will it take? With a little lesson to be learned, King Pig attempts to make amends. But is it enough? Well, it’s a pretty good start.

Nick Bland so clearly and humorously provides signs as to how King Pig is ill-treating his loyal sheep through his amusing illustrations. The animated expressions and body language of the characters alone add so much meaning to the storyline. A valuable story about being friendly and treating people respectfully. A story that is so funny, engaging and appealing. And a story that kids (and adults) will beg to read again and again!

To purchase ‘King Pig’ please click on Boomerang Books!
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mum-goes-to-workMum Goes to Work, Libby Gleeson (author), Leila Rudge (illus.), Walker Books, 2015.

Originally published in 1992, Mum Goes to Work is back in 2015. A story of the importance of mums and an awareness for the many hats they wear, including a view into the world of working mothers.
We are introduced to all the mums and their children as they congregate at the child care centre. The story continues with snippets into the busy days of each mum at work, and their child at care. Nadia’s mother is a student (of architecture, as seen in Leila Rudge‘s illustrations), and it is paintings of houses and building blocks that Nadia meticulously works on at child care. Laurence’s mother serves food and coffee in a cafe, whilst he makes a three-layer sand cake and lots of sand biscuits with his friend in the sandpit. We see mums as nurses, at-home mums, receptionists, retail assistants, office workers and teachers. Meanwhile, the children play with baby dolls, puzzles, construction, ride bikes and read books.
Libby Gleeson‘s text gives equal significance to the mother’s work as it does to the activities of the busy children. Leila Rudge’s illustrations perfectly suit the tender feel of the story, delivering a touch of humour and meaning to the words, and plenty of details to explore. Her gentle watercolour, pencil and collage pictures are gorgeously expressive and beautifully spread between the text.
Mum Goes to Work is a welcome insight into the daily lives of working mothers and children in child care. It’s a joyous story of identity and having a place in this big world. Readers can gain a greater appreciation for the commitment, sacrifices and pleasures that women achieve for their families. Equally, this resource allows mums wonderful opportunities to further bond and relate to their children. Fun, interactive and visually appealing; it’s a win-win for all!
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August 2014
my-dad-still-thinks-he-s-funny
My Dad STILL Thinks He’s Funny
Katrina Germein
Illustrated by Tom Jellett
Walker Books, August 2013.

My dad says, ”I’ve told you fifty million times, don’t exaggerate.”  
Every kid will think this book is about their dad, and I’m sure their dads will agree! The sequel to My Dad Thinks He’s Funny, the popular My Dad STILL Thinks He’s Funny is jam-packed with more hilarious dad jokes that we know and love all too well!

Rather than the traditional story-type format, Katrina Germein has gone for a non-conventional, more of a list-of-events-type style where each spread illustrates another dad joke from the boy’s point of view.
Including some classics, like, I say, ”What’s the time?” and Dad says, ”Time to get a watch.” and,
Mum tells me I get my brains from her. Days says, ”I’ve still got mine.”
And I was amused when I read one of my dad’s favourites, I say I feel like a milkshake and Dad says, ”You don’t look like one.”

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And in a humorous turn of events, I love the ending when we discover who else thinks he’s funny! Those ‘dad jokes’ have definately rubbed off on somebody, or maybe all of us, intentional or not.

The illustrations by Tom Jellett perfectly suit the comical, quirky style of the book. With a mix of pencil sketched outlines and full colour images, from close ups to full frame shots, and a clever use of background textures and patterns. Jellett has made clear in his pictures what Germein has intended, which enables kids to never miss the pun.  A fun, entertaining book that’s sure to make you giggle, My Dad STILL Thinks He’s Funny is perfect for the whole family.

My Dad Still Thinks He's Funny
Available for purchase from Fishpond ($29.95 + free shipping)

My Dad STILL Think He’s Funny
Available for purchase from Boomerang Books ($22.46 + $6.95 shipping per order)
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noni-the-pony-goes-to-the-beachNoni the Pony Goes to the Beach, Alison Lester (author / illustrator), Allen & Unwin, 2014.

Following the original Noni the Pony the loveable pony is back and ready to set off to the beach with her companions; Coco the cat and Dave the dog. As far as cats go, Coco prefers to be nonchalant and stay dry. But like any typical energetic dog, Dave bounds off through the waves to find a whale, only to become stranded in the middle of the ocean. In her true heroic, caring manner, Noni is there to fish him out and return to the safety of the shore.
With Alison Lester’s characteristically gorgeous, endearing illustrations, and gentle, rhythmic wording, Noni the Pony Goes to the Beach is a fun, positive tale of friendship and all things magical about visiting the beach.
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October 2014
819-20140806152030-Cover_Oliver-and-George_option-2-1Oliver and George
Peter Carnavas

Oliver sure is ready to play. He’s dressed in a multitude of outfits; he’s a swashbuckling, sword- and hook-bearing pirate with a rollerskate on one foot and a flipper on the other, with a box for a hat and a superhero suit and cape. Then there’s George. George is a serious, spectacle-wearing bear. He’s busy… reading.
Oliver can’t wait for George to finish his book. He tries to be patient, but that doesn’t last very long. So he throws a paper plane at George, and breaks his chair, and tips porridge on his head, until George got so mad that he… didn’t do anything. Oliver continues to pester George until at last he gets some attention. But is it the attention he wanted? And are both Oliver and George finally ready to play?
Very cute illustrations, simple yet effective page layouts with white backgrounds and sizeable text, Peter Carnavas’ Oliver and George is a delightful and charming story for young readers to giggle through from start to finish.

See more… Oliver and George Review
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9781925161168_ONASMALLISLAND_WEBOn a Small Island, Kyle Hughes-Odgers (author / illustrator), Fremantle Press, 2014.

‘On a small island, in a gigantic sea, lives Ari.’ Ari lives alone, collecting objects and watching the large ships pass by. One day a captain visits and tells Ari of the wonderful and intriguing people, buildings and exceptional artefacts of a great land on the horizon. Ari longs for a place like this and feels alone on his island. Until he has a brilliant, creative idea which eventually attracts the footsteps of many, and he is finally able to appreciate his surroundings and frequenting company.
Exotic, Mediterranean-style paintings, packed with mosaics, pattern and texture, artist and author Kyle Hughes-Odgers has created a magnificent flowing story exploring isolation, friendship, creativity and recycling that is both sophisticated and unique.
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parachute Parachute, Danny Parker (author), Matt Ottley (illus.), Little Hare Books, 2013. CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist 2014.

I love this story about a boy who keeps a firm grasp on his security object; a parachute, with the most imaginative occurrences caused by his own fear. The perspectives portrayed by illustrator, Matt Ottley really take the reader into the scene and give that extra dimension to the emotion intended by Danny Parker. Toby feels safe with his parachute, even doing the ordinary daily routines. But when it comes to saving his cat, Henry, from a high tree house, Toby gradually puts his fears aside and inches towards becoming more confident until one day he manages to leave his parachute behind.
A simple storyline but with creatively juxtaposing and interesting scenes, Parachute is a fantastic book for little ones overcoming insecurities associated with learning new skills or becoming more independent.
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June 2014
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Peggy
Anna Walker
Scholastic, September 2012.

A whimsical story… A remarkably resilient and playful hen… And set in my own home town of Melbourne. I couldn’t resist exploring the delights of this gorgeous book, and kids will immediately be drawn to it, too!

In the comfort of her little home in the quiet suburbs we meet this sweet, black Bantam Hen called Peggy. Throughout the seasons, day in, day out, Peggy never fails to go about her daily routine of eating breakfast from a bowl, dancing, playing, bouncing on the trampoline in the yard and watching the pigeons. This is so cleverly and humorously  depicted simply with snapshot images spread across the pages.

Already giggling? The adventure has only just begun! Peggy is unexpectedly carried away by a big gust of wind and plopped down into the hustle and bustle of the busy Melbourne city. Anna Walker has beautifully illustrated the rainy streets with a sea of umbrellas and the sweeping of walking feet in natural watercolours. From here we watch as Peggy makes the best of an unusual situation and curiously discovers new and wonderous things, as seen in Walker’s paintings and photo collages. As Peggy is reminded of things from home, she wishes to return to where she truly belongs. It is through courage and initiative that Peggy makes her way back home safely. And with a newfound friendship with the pigeons, life in her backyard is back to normal… except for one new occasional adventure!

This light hearted story about a brave and lovable character, that subtly integrates important topics such as friendship, safety and resourcefulness, paired with the just-as-sweet artwork, is one to warm your heart.

View the official Peggy book trailer here (so cute): http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=C6fwlJxNoMM

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To purchase ‘Peggy’ please click on Boomerang Books.
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pig-the-fibberPig the Fibber, Aaron Blabey (author, illus.), Scholastic, May 2015.

We first got to meet Pig as a most greedy and selfish little Pug, refusing to share with his sausage dog flatmate Trevor, and even going as far as spitting and name calling. Once again, in ‘Pig the Fibber’, Pig is just as maniacal with his protruding eyeballs and lunatic behaviour! This time, he has learned something, and it’s not a valuable lesson. It’s how to lie… big, fat lies!

pig the fibber spreadLiterally marking his territory; that is, this book, the naughty little canine has set the tone from the outset. Pig loves to get his own way, and he’s perfectly comfortable hand-balling the blame onto his trusty victim – Trevor. He attacks pillows and smears dog food on the living room mat in a wild stupor. He breaks delicate household items in a crazed hula romp. He even tears up a wedding dress…just for fun. But Pig confesses – it was all Trevor. With absolute disregard for his flatmate’s feelings, Pig ‘lets off’ the biggest lie to be able to sneak into the cupboard to steal more food. Luckily, one dog is rewarded with the treats he deserves…and it ain’t Pig. Who knew a hard knock would see Pig wrapped up in his own head of truths?
Again, just like in the first book, brilliantly hysterical and energetic illustrations that are so characteristically Blabey are expressed in ‘Pig the Fibber’. Be aware of facial expressions to sympathise with Trevor, as the text is so focused on Pig’s actions. The animated rhyming text seems to roll off the tongue. Perhaps it’s slightly easier to read than ‘Pig the Pug’, and it’s equally enjoyable but a hint more crude.
With another clear moral in being truthful and honest (or lack thereof), ‘Pig the Fibber’ is an inexorably amusing and crowd-pleasing book for children of all ages.

See the full review at Boomerang Books here.
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September 2014
22735715Pig the Pug
Aaron Blabey

You can’t go past this eye-bulging, squashed nose little pug that graces the front cover of Aaron’s Blabey’s Pig the Pug. From the onset, we learn just how greedy and selfish this dog is, as he has already claimed the book as his own on the ‘This book belongs to…’ label. True to classic tantrum behaviour, Pig blatantly refuses to share anything with friendly sausage dog, Trevor. A kind gesture by Trevor sees Pig the Pug completely ”flip his wig”. Pig doesn’t learn his lesson gently. Should we laugh at his misfortune? Ashamedly, yes. Pig the Pug is delightfully told in fun, exuberant rhyme, with vivid, amusing illustrations.  A wildly funny read and a clear lesson in learning to share, suitable for all ages.
See more… Pig the Pug Review
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rules-of-summerRules of Summer, Shaun Tan (author / illustrator), Lothian, 2013. CBCA Winner 2014, Queensland Literary Awards Winner 2014.

Wow. Just wow! Shaun Tan has brought a truly fantastical, mysterious and somewhat dark version of what Summer means to a pair of young brothers. Amazingly thought-provoking and surreal, with spectacular, Van-Gogh-like paintings, this book promotes analytical skills in deciphering its’ content; both the text and the images.
Exploring the complicated relationship between the boys, each spread states a new rule to obide by. But failing to comply results in harsh consequences, particularly for the younger brother. In the end the pair join forces in an imaginatively delightful celebration of summer fruits and a beautiful sunset. And after all the emotion, conflict, darkness and out-of-this-world imagery, there’s still room for a little chuckle as seen in the endpaper.
Suited to primary school aged children who will enjoy adding their own interpretation to the depth and meaning that Shaun Tan has conveyed.
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December 2014
9780857982254Santa’s Outback Secret
Mike Dumbleton
Tom Jellett  

I must naturally gravitate towards Tom Jellett’s illustrations because this is the third one of his books I’ve unintentionally chosen this year. This time he’s paired up with author Mike Dumbleton in the comical sequel to Santa’s Secret, it’s Santa’s Outback Secret (Random House Australia).
A Christmas wish coming true is every child’s dream, and one that Mike Dumbleton grants in Santa’s Outback Secret. It is a lively story about Santa helping out a young boy and his injured dad in the Aussie outback, dressed in a perfectly suited disguise.
”Some torn blue jeans, a snake-skin belt, an open shirt.
Old boots, a hat, a water bag, a stockman’s whip, and a canvas swag.
Then on his beard, he used a spray, which only left a hint of grey.”  

Santa tames a wild stallion and gallops through the pages swiftly and gracefully, successfully mustering the cattle back into their paddock. An unselfish gesture on the boy’s part is the reason for Santa’s charitable visit, and a significant gift left by the bloke in red (flannelette) makes for a great end to an unbelievable day.
Mike Dumbleton’s language is delightfully infused with Australian culture in fun rhyming text. Vocabulary and phrases like ‘jackaroo’, ‘crook’, ‘tucker’ and ‘too right’ make for a ripper of a conversation with the little tikes. Characteristically, Tom Jellett nails the illustrations with his cartoon-style, witty drawings that capture the warmth and generosity both tonally and expressively.
Just like Santa in this story, Santa’s Outback Secret is really a heartwarming tale in disguise. Combining humour, compassion and generosity makes for an enchanting Christmas tale for any preschool aged kid.
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October 2014
9781921504631Scary Night
Lesley Gibbes
Illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Ready to be horrified? It’s time to hide! Let out a scream, it’s Scary Night!

Lesley Gibbes and Stephen Michael King bring us a spooktacular tale of three brave friends that set upon a journey in the dead of night. Join them for a mysterious adventure!

Hare with a hat, Cat with a cake, Pig with a parcel. Any guesses as to where they are tip-toeing to under the pale moonlight?   With Pig in front, the animal friends wander far over dark, rolling hills, traipse through the whispering woods and even dare to cross a snapping crocodile-infested creek. Shivering and squeezing each other tight, they continue on their way.

But where did they end up? Read the book and you will get a BIG surprise!

Scary Night, a rhyming story of courage, determination and friendship, contains all the goodness of fun, adventure, suspense, and just a little bit of bite to keep its young readers entertained many times over. This read-aloud book is a real treat!

See more… Scary Night Review
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seadogSeadog, Claire Saxby (author), Tom Jellett (illustrator), Random House Australia, 2013. Speech Pathology Australia Winner 2013.

An adorably funny story about a dog who is not like other working, well-trained dogs that fetch sticks, sit still then roll over and stay clean. Their dog is a Seadog, a run-and-scatter-gulls, crunch-and-munch, jump-and-chase Seadog. And although he is not a bath dog, there comes a time to sit-still-till-it’s-done, until…
With Jellett’s characteristically boisterous and comical illustrations, Seadog is a great read-aloud book perfect for little ones who enjoy romping with their dogs at the beach.
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August 2014
9781406342246-1
Silver Buttons
Bob Graham
Walker Books, August 2013.
2014 CBCA Shortlisted Picture Book of the Year
2014 Shortlisted Speech Pathology Book of the Year

From the multi-award winning Australian author / illustrator, Bob Graham, who brought us classics such as Max, Let’s Get a Pup, and Tales From the Waterhole, comes yet another memorable story, Silver Buttons.

”At 9.59 on Thursday morning, Jodie drew a duck…
At that very same moment, her little brother Jonathan pushed slowly to his feet and took his first step…
At that moment, Jonathan’s mum played ”Merrily Kiss the Quaker’s Wife” on her tin whistle…”

silver buttons jonathan

Wondering what else is happening ”at that very same moment”?
Bob Graham so thoughtfully takes the reader from inside Jonathan’s house to outside on the street where he lives, out to other places in his town, heading further out across the city and over the bay; and as we go, we come across the actions of other children, shoppers, a soldier and his mum, a granddad with his granddaughter, a bird catching a worm, and an old homeless woman, the birth of a baby, kids and dogs playing at the beach, and a tanker on its way to China. And all of this happens at that very same moment that Jodie is putting her final silver button on her duck picture, and when Jonathan is taking his first step at 9.59 on Thursday morning.

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I love the use of descriptive, gentle language. Bob Graham gives us a real sense of the atmosphere and the identity of the characters, in this point in time, even if it is such a brief encounter. Bob Graham beautifully integrates the feeling of unity and connectedness between all the people, animals, vehicles, and buildings. He does this through his clever, detailed illustrations that give us that awareness of the bigger picture as the story goes on, at that moment in time. Whether it be sticks being pushed through a gate, or water from a fountain being sprayed over the park, or the view of the whole city by the open bay. The soft hues in his colour palette fit perfectly with the soft breeze and sunlight that glows over the whole city on an Autumn morning.

A heartwarming, emotive story that enables its readers to think outside their own little world, with interesting characters and appealing illustrations. A most memorable, engaging book with humanity and sensitivity, suitable for young and old.

“I loved making this book probably more than any other. It was just like dropping a stone into a lake of very still water and watching the ripples spread out.” – Bob Graham.

Silver Buttons
Available for purchase from Fishpond ($22.59 free shipping)

Silver Buttons
Available for purchase from Boomerang Books ($22.36 + $6.95 shipping per order)

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517Hb7bBBAL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Spots: One bird’s search for the perfect plumage, Helen Ward (author / illus.), The Five Mile Press, 2014.

We love this story of a guinea fowl who just wants to fit in. It is a book about learning to love yourself, and spreading warmth around with something so simple… a smile.
This particular guinea fowl is missing his spots. So he orders a delivery, only to discover the spots were all wrong. As more spots arrive, he finds they are too small, too invisible, and too bright. Join-the-dots spots are not quite right, and neither are splats, dots from i’s, freckles, leopard or ladybird spots. The spots that he finally wears are certainly unique and unashamedly eccentric, and this acceptance of himself assures his happiness.
Beautifully simple text in rhyming prose, with the elements of humour and ingenuity. The illustrations are equally whimsical and expressive, and include interesting texture; both seen in the paintings and felt on the paper.
Spots is an endearing book about giving, receiving and appreciating what you’ve got, and is perfectly suited to preschool-aged children.
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Snail and Turtle are Friends, Stephen Michael King (author / illus.), Scholastic Australia, 2014.

Snail and Turtle like to do lots of things together. They like to walk and run and read (as you can imagine, very slowly and quietly). Whilst they are good friends, Snail and Turtle recognise their differences in their habitats, diets and favourite activities. But they find common ground in their creative painting pursuits, ‘even though Snail likes swirls and Turtle likes shapes and blobs.’
A very sweet story of friendship and celebrating differences, with equally gorgeous bold, colourful and textured illustrations by author / illustrator Stephen Michael King.  

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July 2014
the-boy-on-the-page
The Boy on the Page
Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing, September 2013.

”One quiet morning, a small boy landed on the page.”

This character makes quite an entrance to the opening page, and we are immediately hooked in! The boy is shown gradually falling onto a blank page, and as he does, his colours emerge in three successive steps.
the boy on the page pg1
As his world and new life begins to mysteriously appear and grow around him, the boy is faced with an interesting quandary, as he wonders, ”Why am I here?”

Peter Carnavas takes the reader on the boy’s exciting and sometimes comical journey that is his life. We see the boy taking adventures on horses and boats, experience music and appreciate nature. And as he grows he conquers the difficult feat of climbing a mountain.  He starts a family and becomes responsible for nurturing, caring for and loving others. But has his philosophical question been answered? Does he now know why he landed on the page?
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In his final attempt to discover the answer, the boy has literally left us, just as the story began, with an almost blank white page. A very clever and powerful move by Peter Carnavas. And when the boy tumbles straight back into the shot, it is there on the last page that he finally understands what has made his existence so special.

So, why do we read books to children? What valuable life lessons do we want them to learn? Really, what is the meaning of life?
Peter Carnavas has so thoughtfully and beautifully weaved these ideas in to The Boy on the Page, in a way that is fun and appropriate for its’ readers of any age. His gently written story paired with his gorgeous watercolour illustrations, varied page layouts, and clever mix of full colour and white space, makes The Boy on the Page a most engaging, joyous read many times over.

The Boy on the Page
Click on the image to purchase from Fishpond $24.99 (free shipping)

The Boy on the Page
Click on the link to purchase from Boomerang Books $22.49 (+ $6.95 shipping per order)

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September 2014
the-brothers-quibbleThe Brothers Quibble
Aaron Blabey

When baby Bunny is introduced, big brother Spalding goes delirious, feeling something called ‘utter and complete jealousy’ creep up from somewhere deep inside. And a WAR has erupted in the Quibble household! Spalding goes on to cause absolute havoc, only to be sentenced to Time Out in his room. And as baby Bunny starts to grow up, he learns valuable lessons in self defense. But behind every taunt, quabble, whack and scuffle, Bunny still has nothing but love to give. Eventually, Spalding’s frozen heart is melted and the brothers begin to actually like each other. Even if it’s not always sunny!
A fun rhyming story with hilariously dramatic illustrations, addressing family relationships, acceptance and jealousy, and containing just the perfect amount of humour, touching moments and wickedness. The Brothers Quibble will capture all readers from age four, and particularly for those who understand the complexity that is sibling rivalry.

See more… The Brothers Quibble Review
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November 2014
9781407144412The Scarecrows’ Wedding
Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

From the creators of ‘The Gruffalo’, ‘Stick Man’ and ‘Room on the Broom’ is another wonderfully whimsical adventure with stacks of fun, it’s ‘The Scarecrows’ Wedding’ by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay are scarecrows, and they are in love. So, the wedding they are planning will go beyond and above.
Around the farmyard they search for the things they’ll need on the big day, With the help of white geese and a spider, a beautiful feather dress will be made.
”Ring-a-ding-ding!” The cows will attend and tinkle their bells, A crab will bring the necklace of shells.
A couple of mice pull from an old curtain two rings, And a bee shows the couple where to find the flowers all pink.

But in need of a vase (or a jug, cup or tin) to keep the flowers cool, A lumpy old toad leads Harry to a far away pool.
Along the way he meets an awfully slow snail, Who takes Harry off course and then to no avail…
Betty and the farmer notice that Harry’s not there, And a new scarecrow, Reginald Rake, is created to form the new pair.

The Scarecrows’ Wedding is wickedly cheeky, but also a gorgeous rhyming tale of loyalty and love by the legendary, exuberant pair that is Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

See the full review at Goodreads.

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the+swapThe Swap, Jan Ormerod (author), Andrew Joyner (illus.), Little Hare, 2013.

From the late Jan Ormerod and Andrew Joyner is a story of sibling love (in disguise); the award-winning The Swap. Here we have a classic case of a mother ogling over her precious baby, and an older sibling feeling the jealousy curse. Caroline Crocodile is tired of hearing how gorgeous her baby brother is, and how he takes up the room on her Mama’s lap. She just wants some smacky-smoochy love for herself. When Mama Crocodile asks Caroline to look after her brother for a little while, it is what happens next that really hooks us in. Caroline decides to take her dribbly baby into the Baby Shop, and it is one of those laugh-out-loud moments when in a surprising twist, the shopkeeper agrees to swap him for other animal babies. With all good intentions, Caroline trials one at a time, only to discover that none of them quite match the brief. With a ‘gorgeous’ ending, Caroline understands why her brother is special and accepts him just the way he is, dribbles, smells and all. She also gets the reward from Mama that she always longed for.
The warm, humorous text matches perfectly with Joyner’s illustrations, including terrific character expression, plenty of fun and interesting details in every scene, and the soft pastel colour tones and patterns that reflect a bit of a groovy, retro vibe.
Classy look, classy tale, The Swap is a true all-round classic that is irresistibly lovely for children and adults, alike.
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thunderstorm-dancing-cover-lores-1‘Thunderstorm Dancing’, Katrina Germein (author), Judy Watson (illus.), Allen&Unwin, Mar 2015.

A family day at the beach suddenly turns bleak, and a little girl makes a quick dash for cover. While the thunderstorm charges outside, it is inside where the riot is raging. The girl hides whilst her daddy and brothers whizz and howl like the wind, puff like the clouds and zap like the lightening. Poppy thumps as loud as the thunder, and Mummy is the pounding rain. It’s a romping, swinging and rumbling commotion…
Until Granny’s piano music shines a gleaming ray of sunlight. What could the little girl be once the storm has settled?

‘Thunderstorm Dancing’ is beautifully rhythmic, with the perfect blend of rollicking onomatopoeia. Every word takes the reader into each lively scene. You can’t help but feel the beat, and it will most certainly get you to your feet! Katrina Germein says as a child she enjoyed acting out stories through dance…
”I felt as though part of me was there again as I was writing ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’.
Her language is dynamic, and text perfectly placed to reflect the movement of the story and pictures. Judy Watson’s mixed media, including inks, washes, pencils and digital media, and varied perspectives create for a visual festivity on every page. She also cleverly utilises a mix of orange and blue colour tones that depict the vibes of chaos and calm.

This whole book is just breathtaking…literally. The sweeping illustrations by Judy Watson really pull us along for the ride, and Katrina’s text sings and dances off the page; getting us marching and stomping and clapping along. It has huge teaching and learning potential in the areas of the arts and environmental studies. ‘Thunderstorm Dancing’ is fast paced, delightful and energetic. Preschool children will be roaring for more.
Allen & Unwin 2015.
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896-20150213142152-Cover_The-Velveteen-Rabbit_LR-1 The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams Bianco (author), Helene Magisson (illus.), New Frontier Publishing, Mar 2015.

In a gorgeously remastered classic tale, just in time for Easter, is a story about the magic of love; The Velveteen Rabbit. With the original story (first published in 1922) by Margery Williams Bianco being untouched, this current version has an exquisite sense of charm about it thanks to its’ talented illustrator, Helene Magisson.

Depth, emotion and beauty, with a touch of magic, all describe this story of a toy Rabbit brought into the loving arms of a young Boy. And these words also perfectly describe the divine artwork that so beautifully compliments this enchanting tale.
When once felt as inferior to the other toys, the Velveteen Rabbit is soon unsurpassable and never leaves the Boy’s side. In a touching moment between the Rabbit and the Skin Horse, as he discovers that to be truly loved is to be Real, Helene Magisson has magnificently represented this significance with her gentle, serene watercolour pictures as the characters converse under the pale moonlight. And equally whimsical are the sweet expressions and playful angles that Helene has created when the Rabbit’s little sawdust heart almost bursts with love once he is claimed as Real.
Magisson’s heartwrenching image of a teary, slumped and worn little bunny so effectively captures the intense emotion of a toy due to be burnt to rid the germs from the Boy’s scarlet fever. ”…of what use was it to be loved and lose one’s beauty and become Real if it all ended like this?”
In a heartwarming finale, the angelic nursery Fairy and the Rabbit fly across the shimmering, glowing sky to a place where Real is true, and his identity as a live rabbit affirmed. What a bittersweet ending when the Boy unknowingly recognises his long-lost cherished Rabbit; the very bunny that he had helped to become Real.
Throughout the book, Helene has used a consistent colour palette of soft, cool blues and greens, which act as a superb contrasting backdrop to the beige of the Rabbit’s fur, as well as honour the affectionate nature of the story. A timeless story of love, companionship and belonging, perfect as a gift for Easter for primary school aged children, and their parents.
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November 2014
whale-in-the-bathWhale in the Bath
Kylie Westaway
Illustrated by Tom Jellett  

Get ready to dive right in to this splashing ‘tail’ of a stubborn whale and a boy with a huge imagination. Kylie Westaway and Tom Jellett have brilliantly combined to fill our homes with laughter with the whimsical ”Whale in the Bath”.

Bruno finds himself in a ‘conveniently’ misfortunate situation when he’s sent off to take a bath. A massive whale overfills the tub, and he is using Bruno’s bubble-gum bubble bath, which is not even the whale’s flavour of preference.

But his sister and Mum won’t have a bar of it, considering his history of ‘encounters’ with a bear under the bed and a walrus in the backyard.

Bruno persists with the whale, only to be continually given the cold-flipper.
”I haven’t done my tail yet. Come back later.”
”I’ll be at least another hour. Maybe four.”

See more… Whale in the Bath
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9781925059038
What’s In My Lunchbox?, Peter Carnavas (author), Kat Chadwick (illus.), New Frontier Publishing, 2015.

And brand new from Peter Carnavas is What’s In My Lunchbox?
What special goodies will you be packing in your child’s lunchbox? Sweet? Savoury? Healthy snacks? A little treat? All to be expected. Well, you can imagine this boy’s surprise when, after finding a not-so-appetising apple, the most bizarre things happen to emerge from his lunchbox.
‘Today in my lunchbox I happened to find…’ A sushi-offering fish? He doesn’t like fish. A chick-inhabiting egg? He doesn’t like eggs. A honey muffin-loving bear? He doesn’t like bears. A dinosaur, then his sister! How absurd! Perhaps that apple is more appetising than he originally thought!
A very funny repetitive story, perfect as a read-aloud, with equally rollicking, fun, retro-style illustrations. What’s In My Lunchbox? will have your kids in fits of giggles. It’s just delicious!
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high res ‘When I see Grandma’ , Debra Tidball (author), Leigh Hedstrom (illus), Wombat Books, 2014.

Debra Tidball’s ‘When I see Grandma’ is a beautiful, poignant story of life, love, family and compassion. It will make you smile. It will make you teary. It will touch your heart in many ways. So thoughtfully and delicately illustrated by Leigh Hedstrom, the images evoke an array of emotions, and tie in magically with Debra’s gentle phrasing.

When the children visit their sick and elderly grandmother in the aged care home, it is their glowing presence that elicits grandma’s fond memories of her past.
”I’m sometimes sad to see her but I’m always glad that I can brighten her dreams.”
The little girl and her brother bring joy to the elderly through elements of music, ”for her dreams to dance on”, through their laughter and their youthful innocence. She nurtures her grandmother with a little pampering and cuddling, which strengthens the love in her heart. The story ends with a kiss for Daddy until he returns from work, and a kiss for Grandma, to say goodbye. The final image of the family sharing grandma’s old photos, which can be viewed in the endpapers, give the book the perfect uplifting conclusion.
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7 thoughts on “REVIEWS

  1. Pingback: The Boy on the Page: Teaching Notes | My Little Story Corner

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  5. Pingback: Whale in the Bath: Teaching Notes | My Little Story Corner

  6. Pingback: Santa’s Outback Secret: Teaching Notes | My Little Story Corner

  7. Pingback: What’s In My Lunchbox? Craft Activity | My Little Story Corner

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