Friday, 18 April 2014

Simpson and his Donkey

Simpson and his Donkey by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frane Lessac (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781921529542
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The heroic life and death of Jack Simpson and his donkey is presented again by husband and wife team Mark Greenwood and Frane Lessac. It starts with Jack’s life before he sailed for Australia, then aboard as a stoker. His working history shows us the man he was, and how easy it was for Jack to serve ‘king and country’ when the war broke out. 

But fear replaced the sense of adventure that many soldiers set out with, when the fighting started on the ‘razorback ridges’. Jack was working tirelessly carrying wounded to the boats to be evacuated, when he came upon a stray donkey which he named Duffy. Thus they became Simpson and his donkey.

This immortal story has been brought to life again through Greenwood’s ability to tell a great tale, and make it sound fresh and new. Lessac’s insightful illustrations fit like a glove around Greenwood’s words. Detailed and expressive, each full page illustration gives up all of Simpson’s bravery, determination and courage, as he carries water to thirsty troops, and makes the return journey with a wounded soldier on Duffy’s back. One of them being his childhood friend Billy.

It also gives us a clear picture of Gallipoli and the conditions the men experienced there. It’s a salute to this part of Australian history that is in our hearts and memories.

Simpson was admired and respected as ‘the bravest of the brave’ due to his humanity. He died the way he lived - always doing what was right, and serving others. He was buried at Hell Spit. We must also reflect as we turn each page of this beautifully illustrated edition with its poetic prose, on all that we are because of Gallipoli.

Lest We Forget.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Gallipoli: Reckless Valour

Gallipoli: Reckless Valour by Nicholas Brasch (black dog books)
PB RRP $17.95
ISBN 9781742030258
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

With an entirely unique approach to presenting the Gallipoli campaign, Nicholas Brasch has broken down the information into easy to understand divisions. He asks a question, and then answers it in comprehensive detail.

This is a wonderful reference book for young readers, and others of any age who are looking to understand the main structure of why WW1 was declared, and what happened next. It explains in easy to follow fact boxes, the main points of how and why Australian soldiers were sent to Gallipoli, why so many died, and what the outcome of the campaign was. It also tells us why Anzac Day is commemorated on April 25.

The contents are visual as well as informative. With photos and images from the Australian War Memorial, there are maps, posters and a glossary of terms for clarification. Other words highlighted within the text are also included in the glossary.

Aaron Pegram from the Australian War Memorial has done a fact check of this book, which is beautifully designed with an excellent layout of information and visuals.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Bilby Secrets

Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell, illustrated by Mark Jackson (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 29.95
ISBN 9781921529320
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

A CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Short-Listed book, Bilby Secrets reveals extraordinary information about this charming marsupial. Before white settlement, two types of Bilbies lived on the Australian mainland. One of them – the Lesser Bilby - is now said to be extinct. But at Easter lots of chocolate bilbies can be found.

The story is presented in two parallel parts on each page. There is the narrative with the Bilby as protagonist at the top, and the factual information displayed in sentences shaped like waves. The two parts are connected by a common thread creating continuity and flow.

Did you know that a Bilby mother can have a litter of three babies and that they can have four litters in one year? Or that a baby spends 75 days in its mother’s pouch?

How does a Bilby keep predators from following them into their tunnel? How old are they when they start to mate?

This and lots more information about the Bilby’s secret life is beautifully presented in this well-researched book. Fantastic illustrations in earthy colours created with mixed media, accompany each entry. This educational and entertaining book will make the perfect gift for readers of all ages at Easter. Perhaps to accompany a chocolate Bilby (just a small one)?

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt [with CD] by Laine Mitchell, illustrated by Louis Shea (Scholastic Australia)
HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978-1-74362– 041-0
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

       We’re going on an egg hunt!
       We’re going to find the biggest one!
       I can’t wait!
      Chocolate for you and me!

We’re Going on an Egg Hunt is Mitchell’s Easter interpretation of the very popular We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. It’s nearly Easter and like almost everyone else, the five friends in this vibrant picture book are off to find hidden Easter eggs in their adventurous egg hunt.

Young children will love to join these cute animals as they search for the biggest eggs in exciting places. As in the original hunt they face many dangers, obstacles they must negotiate such as a wild turnabout maze, and a garden with pretty buzzing flowers! Will they go over, under or through?

Shea’s instantly recognisable illustrations are bright, colourful and playful. They are full of cute animals and cheeky detail – check out the chicks hatching in the birds nest, one of them is not a chick! See if you can find the Easter Bunny and eggs hidden in the pages.

Accompanying the book is a CD recording of the song. Children can sing along with lively, funny and popular entertainer Jay Laga’aia. His voice is instantly known and loved by preschool children (and older)) and this Easter reinvention has simple catchy lyrics.

This can be read, re-read, chanted, acted out and listened to over and over again.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Easter Egg Express

Easter Egg Express (Little Mates) by Susannah McFarlane, illustrated by Caroline Keys (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $4.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-169-5
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop
The Little Mates alphabet finished with Zippy Zoe but Eric and Ellie, Easter Bilbies from the Easter Egg Emporium, have arrived in time for Easter in a new title Easter Egg Express. These two cute bilbies have great fun making Easter special for everybody -    ‘Ellie has elegant handwriting and Eric is an exceptional egg wrapper’ – but can they get everything done in time? Perhaps they need to call on their friends for help through the Bush Telegraph.

Easter Egg Express has a different illustrator to the previous books in the series and although Keys does not include the same detail in every illustration as Creagh did, the endearing nature of the Aussie bush animals shines through in her vibrant and colourful pictures. The Australian bush flavour also is retained throughout.

This Easter edition of Little Mates is an entertaining addition to the well loved alphabet series. Have some fun, twist your tongue and read it aloud this Easter.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

10 Hopping Bunnies

10 Hopping Bunnies by Ed Allen, illustrated by Simon Williams (Scholastic Australia)
PB RRP $9.99
ISBN 978-1-74283-636-2
Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

  Ten hopping bunnies with their egg and spoon.
  Ten hopping bunnies with their egg and spoon.
  And if one hopping bunny drops the egg too soon,
  There’ll be nine hopping bunnies with their egg and spoon.

Easter is coming and for most young children this means the thrill of the egg hunt and Easter Bunny. None of these bunnies is Easter Bunny, but they are just as fun. From the front cover - with them all heaped on a collapsed trampoline – to the last page – where they jump on the bed, these vibrant, bouncy bunnies keep the energy and entertainment high.

Ed Allen’s newest version of 10 Green Bottles has an easy, smooth rhythm and great rhymes. And William’s illustrations bring out the fabulous humour of each situation. 10 Hopping Bunnies is a great example of illustrations, being more than just decoration. Young children will be enchanted by these bunnies, their different personalities and the activities they get up to.

As with previous versions - 10 Smiley Crocs, 10 Funny Sheep, 10 Green Gecko’s (just to name a few) there are numbers hidden on every page for children to find as they enjoy this reverse counting book.

This is a great book for preschool children who love numbers, bunnies and slapstick fun.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

The Devil’s Promise

The Devil’s Promise by Veronica Bennett (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781406343236
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Welcome to another outstanding novel by Veronica Bennett with a wild, strong-minded, independent female protagonist.

Catriona’s father has died and she is now heiress to a large company and estate. Doctor Hamish arrives from Scotland to pay his respects to the family. This unknown cousin carries with him a secret that he holds close about his relationship to the deceased. But his warm nature endears him to Catriona and her mother, and the girl accepts an invitation to spend the summer at his castle.

A complex and haunting tale plays out in Drumwithie Castle that is built on a rock overlooking the sea. Hamish’s son Jamie, a young female ghost of the tower that enlists Catriona’s help to free her, and dark secrets that have been buried in the caves for years, are woven into a beguiling and suspenseful scenario.

This is a story of love and finding one’s path in life; family secrets well-kept, and retribution. It has countless twists and turns, similar to all the entrances and exits to the tunnels of the castle where lost things are found, and freedom is never free.