Monday, 23 January 2017

The Silent Owl

The Silent Owl by Clemency Pearce, illustrated by Sam McPhillips (Big Sky Publishing) PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781925520019
Reviewed by Anita Howard

The hand-crafted illustrations made from everyday items which are full of personality beautifully illustrate the story of an owl which, for an unknown reason, will not make a sound.

This is a fun story told through rhyme, of forest animals, mice, fox, badger, bats, a squirrel and a stag that all take turns in trying to get Owl to speak.

In the end, the owl produces a collection of musical instruments which it plays whle the animals comment on how cleaver the owl is -- and then the owl winks.

As a story, but also as a stimulus for creativity in the use of the found object, this picture book is appropriate for two year olds to 11 year olds.

The Silent Owl was a finalist at the People’s book prize.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Doodles Activity Book

Doodles Activity Book by Ludo Studios (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $16.99   ISBN 9781760295448

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘Draw, Snap, Send, Laugh’ … simple, right?

This interactive activity book is a fun accompaniment to the Australian, Emmy-Nominated TV show, Doodles, currently screening on ABC ME. The idea is that kids use the prompts in the book to draw a picture, take a photo of their creation, and upload it to the Doodles website. If their picture is chosen, Ludo Studios (creators of the show) will turn it into a micro-movie and screen it on TV.

With 176 pages of activities, divided into various topics, there is bound to be something that sparks the imagination of budding artists. Sections are titled: Monsters, Aliens and Space, Robots and Technology, Magic and Fantasy, Dinosaurs, Superheroes and Make Your Own Movie. There are also blank ‘Whatever-You-Like’ pages for freeform drawings.

All pages with the ‘Draw, Snap, Send, Laugh’ icons at the bottom can be uploaded to the website if desired. In and around these drawing activities are plenty of other tasks too. There are find-a-words, join-the-dots, fill-in-the-blanks and spot-the-differences. There are those with a modern flavour, for example tasks requiring kids to use emojis to complete a text message. There are some wonderful creative writing exercises included as well.

The design of the book is fantastic and sure to appeal to the target age group (5–12). The front cover is a collage of real drawings by kids, labelled with their names and ages. The activities, by Daley Pearson, are written in a very kid-friendly voice and are quite funny. For example:

‘Robots need a place to live too! Build a house for this robot to live in … unless you want this robot to be homeless. Wait! Do you want this robot to be homeless?’

The amusing activity prompts are perfectly complementary with the whimsical outlined pictures by Francis Stanton, begging for some colour.

It is not necessary to upload pictures to the website, of course. However, kids of all ages and abilities are encouraged to have a try, with an introductory note reassuring them that ‘there are no good or bad drawings’!

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Digby and the Yodelayhee… Who?

Digby and the Yodelayhee… Who? by Renee Price, illustrated by Anil Tortop, Published by Create It Kids HB RRP $22.95

ISBN 9780992345754

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

The fly pages one sees when opening this picture book are simply lovely peachy-pink colours covered with musical notes and sounds. This is appropriate really, for the story is about music, specifically that made by a number of children who play instruments such as sticks, double bass, drums and keyboard. But what most attracts Digby’s attention about the music being played is the extra loud sounds of yodelling.

Followed by his musical friends, Digby uses his noise-o-meter to track down and find the offending noise. When a door is opened, there is Maisie on stage with a microphone and huge amplifiers filling the room as she yodelayhees repeatedly. In a gloriously colourful scene, Digby and his mates, including Maisie, play their instruments and jive happily.

In the last act of this joyous story, the children hear another sound: ‘rumble gurg.’ They follow its source and finish up having more great fun.

This simple, engaging story is full of energy and fun. The illustrations are most attractive with colour which glows from the pages. A special bonus at the end of the book is a song written by the author in collaboration with her husband, Aaron Hipwell. A recording of the song can be downloaded via the QR code featured in the book.

The book is sure to be enjoyed by children aged 3 to 6 years.

Friday, 20 January 2017

A World of Information

A World of Information by Richard Platt, illustrated by James Brown (Walker Books) HB RRP $29.99   ISBN 9781406370843

Reviewed by Ashling Kwok

The first thing you notice about this book is the stunning cover that immediately catches your eye. The next thing you will see is the incredible artwork littered across every page of this magnificent book.

A World of Information is a treasure trove of knowledge. It is overflowing with fascinating facts and figures that will expand young minds and teach them about the world. Readers will spend hours flicking through the pages, soaking up all the information in this veritable feast for the eyes.

This clever reference book covers over 30 diverse topics including time zones and tectonic plates, the human eye, the periodic table of elements, organs of the body, and the solar system.

Do know how much clouds weigh? Do you know the anatomy of the human skeleton? How about the structure and atmosphere of planet earth? These are just some of the answers you will discover in this stylish and informative tome.

A World of Information is the brainchild of celebrated author Richard Platt who has managed to create an engaging fact-filled book that both children and adults will enjoy reading. The illustrations by James Brown are captivating and contemporary, with a charming retro feel that will engage and enthrall readers.

Although it is recommended for ages 7+, this book is perfect for anyone who loves to learn. The fact that it is so aesthetically pleasing makes it a wonderful gift for every occasion and a great coffee table book.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Little Brother

Little Brother by Patricia Bernard, illustrated by Rizaldy Valencia (Blake Education) PB RRP $10.95
ISBN 9781760200909

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

This is a book in the Sparklers’ series which aim to educate and entertain readers aged 6 to 9 years. Little Brother certainly does this and does it well. Set in Malaysia, it tells the story of a small Sabahian boy, Latif, who goes on an adventure with his pet Little Brother to find a home for the orang-utan in a rehabilitation centre in Sepilok.

As it progresses, the fast-paced story takes Latif (and the reader) from the boy’s family longhouse, where Little Brother and other orang-utans have wrecked a plantation nursery, to Kota Kinabalu. There Latif and Little Brother are photographed by tourists who give the boy ringgits so he can afford to catch a bus to Sepilok. On the bus Latif meets an Australian girl Kendra who aims to sponsor an orang-utan at the rehabilitation centre.

The book employs coloured illustrations -- both drawings and photographs -- on every double-page spread so young readers can see aspects of Malaysia from banana plantations to markets to cityscapes. To further inform and educate the reader, there are pages at the end of the book which contain a map (and flag) of Malaysia, facts about the country and a glossary. There is also a story analysis (orientation, complication, resolution) and a short comprehension.

Other books in this series set in south-east Asia and written by Australian Bernard include Goat Girl and Garden Boy, Emilio and the Volcano, and The Talking Hands Guesthouse.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Beginning Woods

The Beginning Woods by Malcolm McNeill (Murdoch Books)
PB RRP $16.99   ISBN 9781782690900

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

‘Who am I? Where do I come from? Why am I here? What is the best way to live?’

These are ‘Accursed Questions’ and, in the sinister world built up by debut author Malcolm McNeill, searching for the answers to them might just make you Vanish.

Max Mulgan, abandoned in a bookshop as a baby and raised by foster parents, is plagued by these questions. He has vivid dreams of his real parents, and is consumed with the thought of finding them. Around him, adults are randomly Vanishing, much to the bewilderment of leading scientists. Only one, Boris Peshkov, comes close to solving the mystery.

He connects the Vanishings to a place called the Beginning Woods (a dark, fairytale, parallel version of the current ‘World’) and he knows Max’s background is somehow related. Max, meanwhile, immerses himself in Storybooks, desperate to learn more about his past. When the powerful Professor Courtz calls for book burnings, Max’s anger and thirst for self-identity grows and he finds a way to cross over to the Beginning Woods. Finally! He can try and figure out where his birth parents are … only it seems his destiny requires him to complete another quest first. And it involves hunting a dragon.

The novel would suit young adults (and adults) with an advanced, sophisticated passion for fantasy stories. It is unique, highly original, and deeply analogous with life itself, taking a strong stance on the importance of imagination. (As if in affirmation of this, the novel itself demands a generous imagination on the reader’s part!)

McNeill has built a detailed, complex fairytale world with an array of familiar archetypes (witches, dragons and wolves) combined with not so familiar (Shredders, Kobolds and Wind Giants). The story is not fast-paced, requiring some perseverance on the reader’s part. Those that follow the story through from start to finish will be rewarded with a truly satisfying ending though, which presents a wonderful sense of order being restored and life moving forward.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Wilderness: An interactive atlas of animals

Wilderness: An interactive atlas of animals written by Hannah Pang, illustrated by Jenny Wren (Little Tiger Press) HB RRP $29.99
ISBN 9781848575066

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

A beautifully presented, hardcover non-fiction book, Wilderness provides a fact-filled overview of the world’s animals, perfect for readers aged five to eight.

The book is divided by habitat, from ‘On Safari’ and ‘Sea Search’ to ‘High Mountains’ and more. The book is illustration-heavy and interactive, with pop-ups and lots of flaps to lift, revealing fascinating facts about quirky animals and diverse eco-systems. A particularly fun spread is ‘Trek to the Poles’, with animals from the Arctic at the top, and those from the Antarctic upside down at the bottom, encouraging readers to flip the book around.

While the book is broad in its overview, a unique aspect is its focus on lesser-known creatures. From the pale-throated sloth to the red-lipped batfish, kids will delight in discovering the world’s animals beyond the usual suspects. The book would make a great gift, and would also be a handy resource for school projects.