Saturday, 22 February 2020

Danny Best Watch This

Danny Best Watch This by Jen Storer illustrated by Mitch Vane (ABC Books) PB
ISBN 978-0-7333-3336-1 RRP $17.99

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

Number four in the Danny Best series is Watch This, a book which promises a musical bum, rampaging dinosaurs and freaked-out ninjas in outer space. Packed full of Mitch Vane’s entertaining illustrations, the book also includes quotes and quizzes to break up the four stories. Every turn of the page provides something different to read or look at and there’s definitely no danger of the reader becoming bored!

Following on from the first three Danny Best books: Full On, Never Wrong and Me First, Watch This introduces the first story Master Builder, with pictures of the cast and a ‘secret’ code. The story of Danny and his friend Fabrizio includes unique descriptions of milkshake flavours and building of cubby houses and faking of fossils, just to name a few things. The second story Secret Ninja Spaceman is about a sleep over and a whole lot of imagination. The third story Bum-Free Four includes a story within a story about the promised musical bum. And the fourth story Sumo Wrestling Legend involves strapping pillows to the body. There are so many funny and weird things to mention that I’ve just picked out a few.

This book will appeal to primary school readers − boys and girls. It has humour, imagination and lots to go back and notice on the second or third time through. Danny is a likeable character and his friends add to all the fun. Illustrations and text go so well together, it is hard to imagine it wasn’t all done by one person. And my favourite section I have to mention was right at the end: Five Reasons Why Dinosaurs Became Extinct (By Professor D Best), with number 5 being ‘They moved to Adelaide’! I’m sure readers of the first four books will also welcome the next new addition to the Danny Best world, The Face on All the Billboards.

Friday, 21 February 2020

I’ve Got a Tail! Terrific Tails of the Animal World

Julie Murphy is pleased to announce the release this month of her latest picture book for children aged 4 to 8 years.  I’ve Got a Tail! Terrific Tails of the Animal World is illustrated by UK illustrator Hannah Tolson and published by Amicus Ink in the USA.  

From dolphins with tails that spin to a viper whose tail looks like a spider, animals from around the world describe how their tails help them survive. Covering adaptations to desert, ocean, forest, and arctic habitats, this narrative nonfiction picture book highlights the diversity of the animal world. For more, go to

This book the third in Julie’s I’ve Got… series. 

Julie’s website is

Thursday, 20 February 2020

A whole new world of imagination…

By Melina Byrne

There is something magical happening amongst the hustle and bustle of Collins Street in Melbourne’s central business district. In a fast-paced world of smart phones, 24-hour TV, and internet streaming, children at the Kids on Collins Nursery and Early Education (Little Flyers Learning Centres) are being immersed in the wonder of books. Some of these picture books are the same books that their parents may have grown up reading.

Eric Carle’s ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ has been delighting children since its publication in 1969. In 1980, Australian author Hazel Edwards created an unforgettable cake-eating hippo in ‘There's A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake.’ And Graeme Base’s vintage ‘Animalia’ can involve all of the family as they search the beautifully illustrated pages for clues.

Hazel Edwards’ Hippo still receives a lot of fan mail as does his creator, who was awarded an Order of Australia medal for literature in 2013. The Hippo book was also given to the children of the Princess Mary of Denmark as an official Australian Government gift.

I sent fan mail to Hazel myself recently, after finding a newspaper article that I wrote about her Hippo in 1999 as a student journalist. I am now an early childhood educator who reads Hazel’s Hippo books to my students.
I interviewed Hazel in 1999 at the performance of a play about the Hippo at a primary school in Rowville, a suburb in Melbourne’s outer-eastern suburbs. This play was performed in Indonesian and English so it took a bit longer. Using the classroom play scripts that Hazel had already written, plus the music, the school produced a bi-lingual performance by all of their students. Each class performed a different story, in Indonesian and English.  It was a successful and memorable series of performances.

Now the Hippo books have been translated into eight languages, turned into countless plays, a musical and a short film by Pocket Bonfire. The Hippo was featured in a ‘Storytime Stars’ exhibition and the accompanying book of historic Australian children's books in Canberra at the National Library in August 2019. The book was available from the National Library Bookshop to accompany the exhibition, Storytime Stars.
When asked how she feels about the Hippo turning 40 in 2020, Hazel said, “
Hippo is age-less. But fans of three generations have sent hippo-shaped gifts and anecdotes about how much the character has been loved in their families. And I now have three grandsons, whose parents were involved in creating the original Hippo when our roof leaked, Truman (aged 20), Henry (aged 9) and Arlo (14 months). I've always written a special story for each grandson on their birthday. Now the older ones write their own.”

The future for the Hippo seems bright with the books still being re-printed annually. Hazel said she “would love Hippo to be on a stamp. And travel everywhere. And to tour again as a musical.”

There are seven books in the Hippo series. When asked whether the Hippo will be back in another book, Hazel said, “Each of the seven Hippo picture books shares an experience about which a child might be apprehensive (like starting school). And the Hippo is the reassuring big friend who has all the answers. But I think seven books is enough although I'd like to see them all in one special box families can share. And although they have been translated into many languages including Chinese, Braille and Auslan signing, I'd still love to have a Spanish edition.”

Hazel’s book ‘Hijabi Girl’, which was co-authored with children's librarian Ozge Alkan, is being transformed in a travelling puppet show by the Larrikin Puppeteers for the Children's Book Council of Australia’s 2020 Book Week. ‘Hijabi Girl’ is a story about Melek, a girl who can’t find a super-hero female character in a hijab for a book parade so she creates a costume herself.  And a girls’ footy team in the ‘Hijabi Girl Plays Footy Too’ sequel is being written now. This is also about Melek’s friendships with Tien, Zac and Lily. It is a refreshing look at the diverse mix of cultures within most Australian schools.

Hazel, the award-winning author of over 200 books for children and adults, reveals the importance of reading to children, saying, “as an author, I can tell the children who have been read to regularly. They have longer attention spans, more general knowledge and are more tolerant of differences. They also get the rhythm of the language, or languages, if you have the benefit of a bi-lingual household. Picture books are a great way to cross cultures because the pictures are clues. Families can also share (read or tell) stories from their own family history.”

Hazel explained some of the benefits of reading to children; “A really good story takes you into someone else's world, for at least the length of the story. It shows ways you can use words in your writing or speaking. It gives you more words to re-use, and makes you a better listener. It also feeds curiosity and introduces funny words and you can laugh together.”

Hazel believes that reading to children can make them better equipped to start school because “a child who can read, can amuse themselves anywhere. Books can also reassure; others have faced the same challenges. ‘Antarctic Dad’ has been popular with families whose parents work away from home for long periods.”

If you need help choosing books, Hazel recommends “start with picture books as family gifts where everybody looks in the detail for the answers. Therapy books before starting school or going to hospital e.g. 'Guess What? There's A Hippo On The Hospital Roof Eating Cake' has helped many children in hospital. If you're worried about how to pronounce a word, admit it. The child will be accepting that we all face new words sometimes. But ENJOY the reading. It's not a job, it's a pleasure. Last year my grandson taught me FaceTime and we shared reading on that every night as we live in different suburbs.”

Hazel is often asked to demonstrate how to read books to children. On her website, you can watch an amusing video of her reading one of her books with Yamba the Honey Ant on an indigenous themed book program on Imparja TV in Alice Springs.

About Hazel Edwards:
Hazel Edwards, O.A.M., is an award-winning author of over 200 books for children and adults. Her beloved picture book 'There's A Hippopotamus On Our Roof Eating Cake’ has been hugely popular for almost 40 years, inspiring a musical stage production and a short film.

Awarded the Australian Society of Authors’ Medal in 2009, Hazel has been nominated three times for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Melina Byrne was an early childhood educator at Kids on Collins Nursery and Early Education in 2019. She has an education degree and a journalism degree from Monash University. Experienced in journalism, copywriting and publicity, she works as a freelance journalist in her spare time. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Derek Dool Supercool Bust a Move

Derek Dool Supercool Bust a Move by Adrian Beck, illustrated by Scott Edgar (Penguin Random House) PB RRP $14.99 ISBN 9781760892951

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

School friendships, two school rivals with big egos duel it out at the school disco with some unexpected twists and turns along the way. A dance off between the school loser and the school cool kid. Who will be the winner?

This hilarious new book by Adrian Beck is sure to be a winner.  Derek thinks he’s the coolest, funniest, most handsome kid in school, amp that up a gazillion times and you have Derek Dilbert Dool. The only problem is he is the only one that thinks so.

Derek has a front that hides the insecurities he holds inside, that are revealed as we get to know him. At first you wonder why anyone would be his friend. As a reader you to get laugh along at his embarrassing misfortunes, all brought on by his own belief that he is the best dancer in the whole school. He’s kidding himself and his dancing skills are a big problem. But deep down he wants to be liked by all the cool kids and fit in.

Derek, along with his two sidekicks Big Denise and Booger, and Cruz with his blinding smile and friends go head to head. Bring into the picture vice principal Verne who should have been on the stage and you have setting for a dance off like no other. There are laughs galore but there’s also clever writing that shows the inner side of the characters and their behaviours. This allows a reader to not only laugh but think and empathise with each character and champion for Derek and his friends in the end.

Scott Edgar’s cartoon sketches add to the humour and bring more layers of meaning to the character, setting and events. They also show how small Derek feels when the spotlight is upon him at the big dance off.  The cover is perfect for the book with Derek front and centre along with a disco ball. It captures the heart of the story well.

The text is engaging, action packed and easy to read. The story moves along at a fun pace that really engages a reader. This is a great book for middle grade readers, especially those in grades 2-4.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Arriving Home

Arriving Home by MJ Gibbs, illustrated by Mapleton Art (Lesterlyons Publishing) PB RRP $10 ISBN 9780648273509

Reviewed by Nikki M Heath

It is all too easy to overlook the treasures of our local area and community.  Arriving Home is a sweet travelogue aimed at building appreciation for one such place, Mapleton, Queensland and its surrounds.

The characters - a range of anthropomorphic native animals - return from an overseas holiday having lost their travel journal, then set off on a tour of the local area in order to make and record new ones.  They notice both tourist attractions and the natural sights and sounds, finishing with a perfect sunset offering the ideal photo opportunity.

A collaborative community effort on the illustrations - by a group of nine local artists - results in a diversity of styles. While this may be distracting in most picture books, it fits the context and lends a certain charm.  The final spread of the book summarises the notable places and wildlife featured throughout the story.

A book of and for the community, it is available at the Mapleton Community Library or directly from the author.  Families local to the area will appreciate the opportunity to see their surroundings in a different light, and visitors will be able to take away their own Mapleton memory.

Monday, 17 February 2020

I’m Ready for the New Baby and I’m Ready for Easter

I’m Ready for the New Baby and I’m Ready for Easter illustrated by Jedda Robaard (Puffin) HB RRP $12.99 each ISBN: 9781760891626 (New Baby) and 9781760891596 (Easter)

Reviewed by Dannielle Viera

The I’m Ready series neatly fills the gap between basic concept books and narrative picture books. Aimed at three- to four-year-olds, each twelve-page board book gently introduces a milestone or event that is commonly encountered by young children, such as the arrival of a sibling or the preparations for Easter.

Written in the first person, the text invites the listening child into the moment and touches on worries that they may be having (‘Am I ready to be a big sister?’). Through positive actions, the young protagonist of each book discovers the joy within each situation (‘We read stories together and talk to the bump.’). By the end, they (and the child listener) are reassured that new experiences are exciting, and that they can cope with changes (‘I guess I am ready to be a big sister after all!’).

Australian illustrator Jedda Robaard has taken inspiration from the flora and fauna around her to produce her whimsical and endearing images. Slightly muted colours appeal to small eyes, while the curves used to create the animal characters ensure that they exude comfort and kindness.

A gorgeous new series, the I’m Ready books will take pride of place on pre-schoolers’ bookshelves. When life becomes a little overwhelming, kids will eagerly return to these books for solace and support.

Sunday, 16 February 2020


Siblings!  by Rocio Bonilla (Quirky Kid) HB RRP $25.99 ISBN 9780994155733

Reviewed by Claire Stuckey

This picture book is two stories about siblings, and written by siblings combined in one book, in a reverse format. It is the same story told from each point of view with the same ending.

Each sibling details the problems they face with the other; an older sister describes all his annoying traits in plain text but with great visual detail. However, she does conclude that her brother is not so bad when it comes to sharing quiet times and laughing together. In the centre page spread a very noisy baby, a new sibling, is revealed forcing her to question “but ... another one?”

On the reverse, the younger brother does not like his older sister who appears as bossy girl with a rhinoceros’ head. After all the fights, he does acknowledge her talent at building towers and encouraging his bicycle riding. He also determines that she is not so bad until once again we reach the middle page, and faced with the screaming baby, he also questions, another one?

I liked the two stories and how each child talks through the challenges and advantages of having siblings. My two-year-old granddaughter took to the book and the reverse stories quickly, requesting a second reading. Adults will enjoy sharing this book: many might relate to the complex relationship between siblings. 

I have one issue with this title. I do not like the younger brother portrayed as a monkey. As this animal has been used so negatively in racist taunts, I immediately took a dislike to the graphics as this was the side that was face up when I started reading the book. I do understand that children are sometimes called a cheeky monkey so others may not see this as an issue.

The stories are realistic and funny: with the bonus of both genders being featured in this novel format, no one should be jealous!

 Recommended for ages 2 to 8 years.