Friday, 19 February 2016

Billie’s Yummy Bakery Adventure

Billie’s Yummy Bakery Adventure by Sally Rippin, illustrated by Alisa Coburn (Hardie Grant Egmont)
HB RRP $14.99
ISBN 9781760124458

Reviewed by Liz Ledden

Billie B Brown arrives at kinder hungry and a little cranky. Luckily, there’s some baking going on, however Emily’s manning the bakery and won’t let Billie or Jack join in. Teacher Amy subtly helps the situation out by pointing out some hungry toys and encouraging teamwork, so the children start to bake some delicious treats.

This is when my favourite part of the Billie’s Adventure series takes place – the illustrations (which are vibrant and action-packed) reveal the bakery transforming from a cardboard stand to a fully imagined patisserie, complete with live frogs, robots, matryoshka dolls and more as customers. However, when jealousy and competitiveness brew between the kids, things start to go wrong. The baked goods turn from ‘fantabulous’ to disastrous, when Billie adds a whole packet of magic mix to her cake in order to out-bake Emily. It explodes everywhere, causing the customers to flee.

Billie comes up with a solution to create a new cake, encouraging collaboration with the other kids. This is another feel-good story from a fun series that bridges the gap between picture books and short, illustrated junior fiction. Emotional highs and lows and age appropriate conflict are found in a scenario blurring the lines between what’s real and imaginary – just like the life of a pre-schooler, really!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde

The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham (Walker Books)
HC RRP $19.99
ISBN 9780763665135

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This is the second book about the double life and adventures of Princess Magnolia, aka the Princess in Black, and her trusty unicorn steed Frimplepants, aka Blacky.

Filled with excitement at the array of food to be found at brunch with Princess Sneezewort, Princess Magnolia and Frimplepants are dreadfully disappointed when the glitter-stone ring gives out the monster alarm. But nothing takes priority over a challenging battle with monsters!

Duff the goat boy is in trouble. His paddock is invaded by bunnies which have exited the underground where monsters dwell. They are eating the grass which his goats need to graze. Princess Magnolia sees no threat, only cute little bunnies until they devour all the grass, then the trees, then everything in sight. Hordes of them appear and seem to increase.

What can be done? Can the Princess in Black draw on her strategies when fighting monsters to end the cute bunny attack before everything is eaten, including the Princess herself? Or will it be the courageous and resourceful Blacky who finds the answer?

The extraordinary call-outs the Princess in Black and Blacky face will appeal to many younger readers. Some will love the bits about the bunnies having to eat lizard scales, toe nails and monster fur. But the visual aspect of the book alone will win and keep its readers following what happens next. This chapter book series has stunning illustrations and is presented with a magnificent jacket. This is what will initially draw attention to it on the shelf. Ideal for 6+ readers.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Now you See Me, Now You Don’t

Now you See Me, Now You Don’t by Silvia Borando (Walker Books)
HC RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781406364217

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

This superb wordless picture book for age 2+ is a seek-and-find book that will absorb and entertain beginners. Its eye-catching cover in teal is followed by vibrant full- colour pages. There are animals on every page but with each turn of the page, one or more are missing. The reader embarks on an adventure to discover which are missing from the page they are viewing. The only clue is a pair of eyes. The game is to whom do they belong?

There is a choice of elephant, crocodile, mouse, chicks and a mother hen, rhino, trees, a rabbit, a bird and a cat.

Counting can be encouraged in this educational journey through the animal parade. I can see very young children carrying this attractive book under their arm to bed for story time.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Near, Far

Near, Far by Silvia Borando (Walker Books)
HC RRP $17.99
ISBN 9781406363180

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Released simultaneously with its companion book, Now You See Me, Now You Don’t, this very attractive wordless book for the very young offers joy and fun from its bright orange front and back cover to everything in between.

A crocodile, bird, rabbit, mouse, hedgehog, and rhino are the characters that fill and empty the vibrant coloured pages. It is a different game this time. Parts of the animal are shown on the page and the reader must guess or work out, which animal the part belongs to. These characters can be related back or forward to the ones in the companion book.

Silvia Borando has designed and created these books with developing minds as the target audience.  Interactive and entertaining like its partner, eye-catching colours are again at play and both books promise to bring a smile to the faces of early learners in a simple and challenging educational experience.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Snowy Night

Snowy Night by Tilde Michels, illustrated by Reinhard Michl (Starfish Bay Children’s Books)
PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9780994100221

Reviewed by Leigh Roswen

Snowy Night written by Tilde Michels and illustrated by Reinhard Michl is a picture book told in verse.

Peter lives in a cottage near the forest. One stormy night a rabbit, then a fox and finally a bear come knocking on his door seeking shelter. Can all these natural enemies spend a peaceful night together? And who should they fear the most? This is a tale of kindness and cooperation with a thoughtful twist at the end.

This is not simply a rhyming picture book it is a verse story with over 20 stanzas of 2-10 lines each. It would be a joy to read aloud to 4 to 8 year olds. The text is not so suited to independent reading due to the long word count and the fluency required to keep the rhythm flowing. The story is clear and the concepts not difficult, so it is an ideal text to introduce a child to poetry.

Perhaps there are times the rhyme is a bit clunky but this can be forgiven because the verse never fails to move the clever plot along. In the hands of a good reader children will not notice this at all. There are also parts when the verse is beautiful and bouncy and would be a delight to read aloud:
Meanwhile the snowflakes keep on tumbling,
The wind keeps howling, roaring, rumbling,
The strongest trees are bending, breaking,
The little house is shivering, shaking.

The drawn illustrations in this book are a standout and complement the story on every page. The soft textures of fur and cloth and the facial expressions of each character are depicted beautifully. The middle spread of Peter and all the animals asleep in the house is just gorgeous.

This is a cosy bedtime book, like a lullaby, it is meant for settling and snuggling. It also has a message about cooperation in times of need, about honesty and human responsibility.
Reviewer website:

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Stick and Stone

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld (Koala Books)
PB RRP $14.99
ISBN 978-1-74276-167-1

Reviewed by Jenny Heslop

Stick and Stone is a deceptively simple story about friendship and kindness which will delight young readers. Using few words, this picture book cleverly depicts the importance of friendship, celebrates difference and presents a subtle anti-bullying message without being at all moralising. The story is told well through both the text and illustrations.

The gentle, warm rhyming text is sprinkled with humour - “You rock, Stone,” says Stick. – often leaving the illustrations to tell the story. Friendship and fun shine through on all the pages.

The pictures have a softness about them, yet use lots of colour and boldness. The illustrator has captured the energy, emotion and personalities of Stick, Stone and Pinecone, which enables readers to relate to these normally inanimate objects and become involved fully in this adventure.

This is a fun, easy to read book with a clever numeracy twist and truly shows that ‘Friends who stick up for each other rock’!

I like picture books which make use of the end papers to subtly expand the story. This book is a great example, using black and white sketches to show the beginning of Stick and Stone.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

A Single Stone

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
ISBN 9781925081701

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Everyone is obedient to the words of the Mothers that direct their lives. All they know is the world inside the mountains created by Rockfall, a time when the mountains shifted and land was swallowed by water.

Jena leads the line of girls that have been physically ‘adjusted’ so their bodies are pliable enough to wriggle through the crevices of the rocks that form the periphery of their village.  This is a place where females are more important and necessary than males, for these thin and pliable female bodies tunnel for the flakes of life-giving mica which keeps the population alive during the harsh winters.

Jena accidently discovers many truths hidden from them all.  The Mothers have kept their dangerous secrets well. She learns about the ‘ripening’, enforced to manipulate the premature birth of babies. This guarantees the abnormally small stature necessary for the preservation of the line.

She also discovers that there is an Outside, and everyone has been lied to.  Will the people believe her if she tells them the truth? Can she gather the courage to make her way through the mountain one last time?

This highly creative novel covers issues of gender, body image, the abuse of power by persons in positions of authority, and how easy it is to view people as disposable.

Written in scintillating prose filled with rich metaphors, this imaginative and well-crafted story is for the 12+ age group.