Monday, 6 July 2015

Splosh for the Billabong

Splosh for the Billabong by Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji (Allen & Unwin 2015)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN: 9781760112127

Reviewed by Jade Harmer

Splosh for the Billabong, by Ros Moriarty and Balarinji, is a playful picture book that gently intertwines the natural environment of northern Australia with Indigenous art.

In fewer than one-hundred words, Moriarty’s simple, rhythmical descriptions are brought to life by Balarinji’s bright, dynamic illustrations.

Set in the tropics of northern Australia, each spread depicts another natural wonder. Ants march in the sunburnt earth, crabs dig in the lushness of the riverbank.
Ripples swirl, birds whoosh and mud squishes. A child protagonist collects squelchy finger-paint to paint a picture of the water hole by the oozy-squidgy river bank.

The blurring of the lines between nature and art subtly introduces the cultural significance of the natural environment to Indigenous Australians, and the importance of storytelling through painting.

Pre-schoolers and early primary school aged children will love Moriarty’s onomatopoeic descriptions and will no doubt will want to crack open the paint pots or squelch about in the mud.

A translation is included in Yanyuwa, the language spoken by Aboriginal families in

Borroloola, Northern Territory.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

All the Wild Wonders: Poems of Our Earth

All the Wild Wonders: Poems of Our Earth edited by Wendy Cooling, illustrated by Piet Grobler (Frances Lincoln)
HC RRP $27.95
ISBN 9781847806250

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The title poem of this wonderful poetry collection is a lullaby from a mother or grandmother to a new born baby. It is by Australian writer and poet, Elizabeth Honey. It sets the themes of the book which include an environmental conscience, a sense of responsibility towards all living things, the need to be ready to act on what is unacceptable in relation to the environment, and to remember that we are caretakers of the earth for future generations.

There are poems on the sun - what its role is and what ours is towards it. Poems for the forest include a salute to trees in short and long forms that include the stirring and profound, The Prayer of the Tree by Anonymous. Then there are references to the animals and birds that live in trees, and the adverse effect on the landscape of concrete buildings as they replace trees.

Snagger’s Pond is directed at children, for they too, must learn early in life to respect their environment. ‘Snagger’s Pond was dying, there was a bad pollution. So, we cleaned and restocked. We found the solution.’

The range of poetry is enormous. It reaches to caged birds, oil spills and the damage to animals and bird life. It continues with wind farms, the dwindling numbers of endangered animals and other species, the slaughter of seals and whales, and the disappearance of green from the planet.

Well known poets such as John Milton, Alfred Tennyson, Thomas Hardy, Ogden Nash, and John Agard have been included. Other poets’ work from around the world that perhaps we haven’t heard so much about, have equal status in this compilation.

There is a double page list of About the Poets. The book is produced with fine quality paper and illustrated in pencil and watercolour. Wendy Cooling is a highly regarded anthologist.

This is an impressive collection of 35 poems. I hope it gets the attention it deserves for the poems collectively call for attention to their messages. I would love to believe that all readers will be affected by the thought-provoking content and remember, ‘where we see danger, we need to think and act’ to protect our earth.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Zoo Train

Zoo Train by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Daron Parton (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 24.95
ISBN 9781922179876

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is a humorous rhyming and rhythmic sing-song tale of a trip through the zoo on a train. The family has brought a picnic lunch with popcorn, juice, and cake. It’s a cold day but that doesn’t matter. Everyone is rugged up.

It’s all so exciting passing through the different areas, seeing all the big animals in their environment. The train goes past a monkey’s cage being cleaned out by the keepers. Have they shut the cage door properly?

Water falls on the boy’s head. His ears are cold. It seems to be snowing but only on him.  Why if he’s wearing a hat?  They have reached their destination and everyone gets out. His pants seem too big. They won’t stay up. What’s going on?

It’s time for a snack. The lunch bag is empty! The food is not the only thing missing. They go back the way they came in search of the missing items. The animals are enjoying the picnic lunch, wearing the boy’s hat, scarf and belt. Who and where is the culprit?

This simply has to be read aloud. The sounds and rhythm move to a musical beat. The illustrations in mixed media are striking and the characters’ expressions speak for themselves. Young readers will love listening to this, while following the pictures and guessing who the guilty animal is. There is so much to see on every page. It’s a visual feast ideal for readers 3+ years.


Friday, 3 July 2015

My Name is Lizzie Flynn: A Story of the Rajah Quilt

My Name is Lizzie Flynn: A Story of the Rajah Quilt by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Lizzy Newcomb (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 24.95
ISBN 9781922179913
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is a story about the Rajah quilt. The Rajah was a ship that carried convict women from London to Van Diemen’s Land. Lizzie Flynn, a young woman sentenced to 7 years for stealing a shawl, narrates the story.

On board all the women are given a bundle that consists of needles, cotton, scissors and pieces of fabric. Each one takes part in joining the pieces of fabric into strips to create a quilt.

Lizzie doesn’t know how to sew, so her friend Molly teaches her. She applies herself and soon perfects her stitches. This occupation fills the endless days of the long journey.

Sadness overwhelms Lizzy when Molly gets sick. Now the sailors ‘stitch a canvas shroud for Molly.’ Lizzy stitches on in Molly’s memory, until ‘the pieces grow into patterns, into strips.’ The convict women’s arrival in Van Diemen’s Land is moving. The quilt is finished. It remains forever as a testament to those women’s lives. 

Illustrator Lizzy Newcomb has done an extraordinary job of the art work created with acrylic paint. There is a strong sense of time and place both through the text and illustrations. Every page brings the reader right into the story, from their departure, through each fantastic double spread.

There are many double spreads and some a bit less than double with the text in a strip, which allow the words to speak alongside the visual interpretation.

The Rajah quilt was made in 1841 and was created with 2715 pieces stitched by 20 women and remained unbacked. Presented to the Governor’s wife, she sent it back to England, possibly to Elizabeth Fry, the woman who was head of the committee that gave the bundles to the convict women. But, ‘it is not known whether the quilt ever reached Elizabeth.’

It was lost for 147years. The quilt is now in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, after being found in a Scottish attic and returned to Australia in 1989.
This story is part of our rich convict history and suited to the 7+ age groups, overseas visitors, and collectors of fine children’s books.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Peas in a Pod

Peas in a Pod by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Tina Snerling (EK Books)
HC RRP $24.99
ISBN 9781921966712

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Being the same can be boring. Quintuplets Pippa, Pia, Poppy, Polly and Peg are happy to be the same. In fact, mum and dad prefer it that way for life has order; they have control and their girls were predictable. Then everything changes. Order walks out the door and chaos moves in.

The girls look the same on the outside, but what about who they are inside? They have different tastes, personalities, and ways of expressing themselves through actions, dress, and individual choices. In fact, there is an endless string of differences that makes each girl who she is. It is these differences that impel them to become who they are -- with fascinating outcomes.

This is an entertaining story about being able to express your individuality, and the fun and freedom that change brings with it. It is a celebration of being different.

Beautifully complemented by Tina Snerling’s humorous translation of the text, this gorgeous story is a thought-provoker and can certainly be used as a point of discussion about personal identity and how children define themselves. With its brilliant pink and green covers and equally attractive end pages, it’s ideal for the 3-7 age groups.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Anzac: The Story of a Little Goat

Anzac: The Story of a Little Goat by Jacque Duffy (Itchy Emu Press)
PB RRP $15.95
ISBN 9780646930497

Reviewed by Yvonne Mes

Anzac is an Australian story about a little goat. Won in a two-up game, his adorable Anzac eyes fail to win over the hearts of the cold family he comes to live with. In a case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover,’ Little Anzac finds that the family he ultimately belongs with is very unlikely indeed.

The story, set at a time where Australia is recovering from war, is heart-warming with its message and its lively illustrations will appeal to young children.

Jacque Duffy, a fine artist and children’s writer of several books, is based in Cairns.

Yvonne Mes is a children's writer and illustrator. Her picture books, Meet Sidney Nolan (Random House) and Oliver’s Grumbles (Dragon Tales Publishing) are scheduled for release in October 2015.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015


Lulu by Georgie Donaghey illustrated by Ann-Marie Finn (Dragon Tales Publishing)
PB RRP: $17.95
ISBN 9780992523954

Reviewed by Yvonne Mes

Lulu is a bear with a creative soul needing to be expressed, so she moves from her icy lands to the big city lights. Here she is right at home dancing and singing and being adored by her fans until she realises how much she misses her friends back home. Luckily they know just what to do.

Written in rhyme that doesn’t miss a beat and beautifully illustrated, this adorable bear shows that you can have it all if only you reach for it.

Yvonne Mes is a children's writer and illustrator. Her picture books, Meet Sidney Nolan (Random House) and Oliver’s Grumbles (Dragon Tales Publishing) are scheduled for release in October 2015.