Friday, 23 June 2017

One Little Goat

One Little Goat written by Ursula Dubosarsky, illustrated by Andrew Joyner (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $24.99  ISBN 9781742976921

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

‘My daddy bought a little baby goat, a little baby goat my daddy bought’ begins this cumulative tale with echoes of There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. A cat eats the goat, who is bitten by a dog, who is hit by a stick and so and so on, as the tale becomes increasingly more mayhem-filled. The repetition as the story builds has a musical quality, and would have children repeating along in no time.

The ridiculous antics of the characters are humorously depicted via Joyner’s cartoon-like illustrations, full of action and with very expressive faces throughout. Even the suggestions of violence (think chopping and burning!) are reduced to nothing more than frivolity with Joyner’s clever touch. After a fun turn of events where a tall, dark stranger is revealed for who it really is, the chaos subsides until the story comes to a satisfying, full-circle conclusion.

There is a real old-fashioned, nursery rhyme feel to this story, as it is based on a traditional Hebrew song dating back to the 17th century. The words retain a timeless feel, while the illustrations bring a contemporary sensibility.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Clare’s Goodbye

Clare’s Goodbye written by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Anna Pignataro (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $24.99  ISBN 9781760127527

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Clare and her siblings Rosie and Jacob are about to move house. Rosie and Jacob insist on saying goodbye to everything, from their tree-house to the place their pet bunny is buried, but Clare refuses to participate. Clare’s sadness is apparent in her silence, as well as through Pignataro’s touching, charcoal illustrations, like the image of Clare with her back turned as the removalists cart their furniture away.

It’s hard not to feel for her – the youngest child, and the least likely to process a big change. The stark emptiness of the rooms highlights the finality of the move, and allows Clare to bid farewell in her own, special way. The illustrations convey a childlike innocence and evoke much emotion, with a moody grey palette tinged with colour reflecting the poignancy of the story.

This is a touching tale about the difficulties faced in saying goodbye and moving on, and the importance of allowing little ones the space and time to cope with change.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Our Last Trip to the Market

Our Last Trip to the Market written by Lorin Clarke and illustrated by Mitch Vane (Allen and Unwin)  HB RRP $24.99  ISBN 9781925266962

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Markets are great, aren’t they? Oh, the atmosphere! The incredible smells! Fresh foods! Now imagine sharing your trip to the market with six kids in tow … hmm. Perhaps the word ‘last’ in the title refers not so much to the most recent trip, as it does to the Last Ever.

This entertaining picture book, with hilarious full-colour illustrations by Mitch Vane, is sure to strike a chord with frazzled parents everywhere. The mother in this story is, shall we say, super upbeat. She is not at all daunted by the fact that she’s daring to take six kids, including a toddler and a couple of preschoolers, out grocery shopping. She’s happy, and positive and full of bright energy as she takes in the sights. Her kids, meanwhile …

One is stealing a juggling ball from a busker, another is knocking over a pile of doughnuts. Two have stolen a wheelbarrow. One is digging through a sack of lentils. Another has found some sparkly glue.

Though the mother briefly pauses in her market merriment to discipline the children (‘Please give that back to the man’), she never loses her cool. Why would she? She’s at the market! The glorious market! The story keeps its rhythm as she continues on her way, buying far more things than she intended. The only time she expresses any anxiety is when she realises they’re running late for Grandma and Gramps. As market-goers and stall-owners watch the family, horrified by the trail of destruction they’ve left behind, good old mum suggests they’ll get to the car faster if they ‘stomp like a pack of wild boars’. Why not? Off they go, ‘stompity stomp’, but not without a couple more mishaps on the way. Just when I start to doubt the mother’s neverending patience, the story ends with some sweet revenge on her part. Phew!

Lorin Clarke has written a fantastic story made highly amusing by its unpredictable rhymes and funny caricatures. There is much to see in the illustrations and Vane perfectly captures the children’s cheeky expressions (or innocent curiosity). I particularly loved the gleam in the mother’s eyes on the last page.

The story is suitable for children aged 2 – 5 years … and parents. Of course, parents

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

King of the Outback

King of the Outback written by Kristin Weidenbach, illustrated by Timothy Ide (Midnight Sun Publishing)    HB RRP$26.99   ISBN 9781925227246

Reviewed by Stefan Nicholson

King of the Outback is a jewel of an Australian children’s book with many facets to contemplate.  It is also a picture book, a book of Australian history, a biography, obviously a non-fictional work but absolutely a delight to read.

It is the life story of Sir Sidney Kidman who left home at thirteen with five shillings and a one-eyed horse, then ended up owning the largest cattle station in Australia.
It is tempting to imagine how primary school children will approach this book. 
Some will look at the first few pages and then work through the book admiring the stylised pen and ink illustrations of people and animals surrounded by the colours of the bush. The watercolour palette is perfect.

Other children will read the unravelling story on each page and immerse themselves into the story through the corresponding illustration.

The expressions of the people and the brown landscape match the late nineteenth-century Australian country with its harsh dusty ground, the solid civic buildings and the fashionable clothing evident on the streets of the town.

King of the Outback is also an ideal reader for parents and teachers to read to younger children whilst showing them the illustrations – I like looking at some of the people hidden in the crowds!

You can almost hear the sounds emanating from the illustrations, enhanced by the use of an unusual selection of fonts and embellishments – font size, bold, curved, etc.  I think that this arrangement of text is designed to keep the readers’ attention away from staring at the illustrations for too long instead of moving along with the story. 

The text is simple and effective.  It gets the story told interspersed with many interesting facts and events like the impressive rescue of the town’s people from scared, rampaging cattle during Sid’s seventy fifth birthday rodeo. 

This book should make for excellent classroom discussions as this era of Australian history comes to life in thirty two pages. But don’t let any child walk out of the classroom with fifty cents and a ‘see you all later’.

Monday, 19 June 2017


Friends by Teena Raffa-Mulligan, illustrated by Veronica Rooke (Serenity Press) PB RRP $12.99 ISBN 9780995410411
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Written in rhyming verse that could easily be sung if it had music, this clever, delightful little picture book for a 3+ years age group, reflects on just what friends are. It conveys ways friends care for one another and what they do to show it, regardless of their differences. Ideal for reading and listening to, it can be used as an introduction to poetry for the young.

An interesting collection of Australian wildlife comes together. Koalas and cockatoos, a snake and a kangaroo, a bear, bee, and possum are part of the large menagerie that carries the story. Strong, bold lines and vibrant colours make each page a stage production thanks to Veronica Rooke’s carefree interpretation. The text is free-flowing in large font set out in a thoughtful and child-friendly design. The characters are happy, playful and animated as friends are when they get together.

It’s a picture book for the very young to learn and recognize our Australian creatures while listening to verse. Friends, conveys a strong message about the role friendships play in people’s lives.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The Australian Animal Atlas

The Australian Animal Atlas written by Leonard Cronin and illustrated by Marion Westmacott (Allen and Unwin)  HB RRP $29.99 ISBN 9781760294144

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Where, in Australia, might you find a red-headed honeyeater? What’s the wingspan of a gum moth?  Is there such a thing as a legless lizard? This 48-page reference book is jam-packed with information on 176 species of Australian animals.

The information is separated into habitats, with a selection of 16 animals per spread. The list of habitats is quite extensive and impressive: Deserts, Mangroves, Mallee and Acacia Scrublands, Waterways, Forests and Woodlands, Seashore, Rainforests, Heathlands, Tropical Wetlands, Alpine and Urban. Each habitat is introduced with 1–2 paragraphs describing its unique features, climate conditions and importance to the ecosystem. Each is accompanied with a small map of Australia, colour-coded to show the locations of that habitat. 

Each section of the book comprises four pages. The first double page spread (which opens with the habitat information) includes a large look-and-find illustration. The margins feature small pictures of 16 animals that are hiding in the main picture. Each of these animals is described in further detail on the double page spread that follows. The font is on the small size, as a result, but the writing is great – Cronin has focused on lesser known facts about each animal and perfectly summarised these with an entertaining caption beneath each species name. For example, the caption for the spotted cuscus is ‘smelly chest’, and the paragraph beneath explains how smelly oil from the male’s chest is rubbed onto tree branches to mark out a territory.

The illustrations by botanical artist, Marion Westmacott, are in full-colour and look extremely realistic – some almost photographic in quality! The endpapers feature a lovely trail of animals, first wandering into the book and later wandering out. The pages of the book are glossy and white throughout, which really helps lift the illustrations off the paper and bring the detail to life.

The book will appeal to kids who love Australian wildlife, particularly those aged between 6 and 12. It would be a great addition to the classroom shelf, especially beside existing collaborations by the same author and illustrator.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot

Captain Jimmy Cook Discovers X Marks the Spot written by Kate & Jol Temple and illustrated by Jon Foye (Allen and Unwin) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9781760291945

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

Jimmy Cook is, to put it simply, an explorer. Actually (if you can excuse his modesty), he’s pretty much ‘the greatest explorer that ever lived’. After he discovered the third grade, in the first book in this series, he was rather inspired by the historical feats of  ‘the other Captain Cook’. In this, the second ‘Jimmy Cook’ story, he has found a humungous dinosaur footprint … so now he’s busy digging away to find its bones. And give it a name. (‘Jimmyosaurus’ anyone?)

Much to his teachers’ annoyance, Jimmy seems to have developed quite a team of student diggers at the school … especially since he found that map marking X for treasure. Forget the dinosaur, he is about to discover something better … something real. Can he get to it before that show-off, Alice Toolie, does?

Jimmy records his daily adventures in his journal, noting always the weather that day (eg ‘hailstones the size of rhinoceros beetles’) and drawing a picture to illustrate his inventory (eg the ‘arm of a robot toy’). The inventory and weather observations don’t always have any bearing on the story, but are amusing introductions to each chapter. The journal entries are interspersed with funny black and white penciled illustrations by Jon Foye. Almost every page features an illustration, making the design highly attractive to readers aged 7 – 10. 

The three talented creators behind this book have released four children’s books together including I Got This Hat, the book selected for National Simultaneous Storytime in 2016. Their complementary styles work well together, offering the right blend of humour and action, with a dash of nonchalance. Jimmy’s innocent observations about his world are laugh-out-loud funny. Can’t wait to see what he discovers next!