Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Baby Band

Baby Band by Diane Jackson Hill, illustrated by Giuseppe Poli (New Frontier Publishing) HB RRP $24.99  ISBN 9781925059779

Reviewed by Rebecca Newman

When a new baby arrives in apartment 8A his crying annoys everyone on level 8. Then he discovers the joy of crashing together pots and pans. In their separate apartments each neighbour contributes their own sound to the baby’s pots-and-pans performance. The formerly reclusive neighbours finally fling open their doors and shimmy to the apartment block’s rooftop to play together in a makeshift band.

Poli’s delightful illustrations include musical quirks for the observant reader. (I particularly liked the treble clef in the street light’s frame, and the manuscript paper on the outside walls of the building.)

The endpapers give us the story in miniature — at the front we see the neighbours at a park, enjoying the day but not interacting with each other. At the end of the book the endpapers show the same park with the neighbours jamming together (including the noisy baby, pan in hand) and dancing.

Baby Band is great to read aloud.

About the reviewer: Rebecca Newman is a children’s writer and poet. When she’s not writing or reviewing, she is kept busy as the managing editor at Alphabet Soup’s website. rebeccanewman.net.au

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Hello to You, Moon

Hello to You, Moon written by Sally Morgan, illustrated by Sonny & Biddy (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $24.99  ISBN 9781760125462

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

A poetic, rhythmical counting book (but so much more), Morgan’s Hello to You, Moon examines the various creatures which swing, prowl, leap and scurry under the light of the moon.

Each creature featured salutes the moon in their own way, from hooting owls to roaring lions. Each spread progresses from one to ten with an accompanying animal family, as the moon journeys from twilight through midnight to the brightening sky of the following day.

This would make a brilliant bedtime story for babies through to pre-schoolers, with much to engage, including rhyme, action and animal noises. Sonny and Biddy’s graphic illustrations with an overarching purple palette are the perfect, vibrant accompaniment to the text.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Once Upon an ABC

Once Upon an ABC written by Sophie Masson, illustrated by Christopher Nielsen (Little Hare Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9781760128432

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Sophie Masson’s Once Upon an ABC is a stunning ode to folk and fairytales. For every letter of the alphabet is a character from stories past, ranging from the highly recognisable to the more obscure.

There’s Rapunzel and Jack in the Beanstalk, the wily old wolf from Little Red Riding Hood (as G for Grandma, of course!). The Ugly Duckling and Puss in Boots make an appearance, as do mythological creatures such as a Pegasus and Nymph. Certain inclusions may leave readers scratching their heads – Y for Yggdrasil, anyone? However, ensuing discussion and bookish research may open young readers’ eyes to a whole new world of stories and characters they weren’t otherwise familiar with.

Told in an engaging rhyme, this is an ABC with a difference – a collectible homage to legendary tales. Nielsen’s illustrations pop with primary colours and have a timeless, retro style. The endpapers are a typography-lovers’ delight.

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’.