Monday, 30 April 2018

The Dream Bird

The Dream Bird by Aleesah Darlison, illustrated by Emma Middleton (Wombat Books) HB RRP $19.99
ISBN 978192556337
Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you they’ve spent many hours reading bed-time stories to their small children. Mother of four, Australian author Aleesah Darlison, has written this beautifully illustrated picture book for both parent and child. It’s about toddler George who is active at day but when time comes for sleep, he’s wide awake. His sister and brother, Mum and Dad, offer solutions to falling sleep, but nothing works. Perhaps Gran can help?

When Gran finds George in her room crying, she promises she has ‘just the thing that will help.’  Subsequently, with her small grandson tucked into her bed, Gran tells him the story of the dream bird ‘as tall as a flamingo and as graceful as a butterfly’ which sings children ‘to sleep, giving them the happiest dreams possible.’ Of course, the story works and George slips into ‘the happiest dream he’d ever had.’

This is a simple story, well told, which is a good one to read to children resisting or unable to sleep. The illustrations are detailed and lavished, but the only flaw it would seem is that most of them are painted – in a magical realism style – using great swathes of pink. As this is a story of a boy, it seems odd to use a colour normally associated with girls – or do young boys not worry about ‘pink’ books?

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Busy Izzy and Talkative Tess

Busy Izzy and Talkative Tess by Roxanne Kiely, illustrated by Jeesoo Kim (Busy Ink Publishing) PB ISBN 9780994551016

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Children across the globe enjoy songs, music and games, as well as rhythm and rhyme, which is why the CEO of the World Literacy Foundation says he highly recommends the books in the Busy Izzy series for children. 

The illustrated book suitable for readers 5 to 8 years starts with the words, ‘Do you have a friend who talks a lot?/Natters and chatters and doesn’t stop?’ Busy Izzy, the book’s protagonist, has such a friend who not only talks fast, but also last, sounding like one of those people who we say can talk under water. Tess is present while Izzy and her friends are working in the garden, but she ruins the activity with a series of accidents and her constant chatter.

Happily, Izzy patiently explains to Tess about taking her turn when in company and Tessa accepts she’s hogged the limelight: she apologises, and Izzy and her friends are better able to enjoy their friend. The group write stories which they share and then sing a song about friendship.

The Izzy series is aimed at creating and developing friendships among children. On the back page of this book is a list of ingredients for friendship, which includes patience, kindness, understanding, fun, listening and more. Without doubt, Busy Izzy and Talkative Tess manages to cover all the bases of friendship. The story is told in rhyming verse which would suit reading aloud, and the story could easily be adapted to theatre with young readers acting out the parts of Izzy, Tess, and their group of friends.

Not only is there a book, but there’s also a CD with well-known Australian actor Bec Hewett featured as the voice of talkative Tess. All songs have been written by the author and Stephen Kiely.

A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of Busy Izzy books is donated to the World Literacy Foundation. You can find more about the books and related materials on and on Facebook, YouTube and the Busy Izzy app.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Pepsi the Problem Puppy

Pepsi the Problem Puppy by Sandi Parsons, illustrated by Aska (Faraway Nearby Ink) PB RRP $12.99
ISBN 9780987615701

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

Every child wants one!
Every parent thinks twice!
                     .......and then somehow, in one way or another they arrive!

This book is all about the ‘settling-in’ phase and how that is viewed very differently by each member of the family.

Rosie is the protagonist who has long wished for a puppy. Her little brother Jacob always seems to say the wrong thing – especially when Mum’s around. Dad is the parent who finally gives in and finds the puppy, although his research wasn’t so good.
Mum is the reluctant parent who is nit impressed with all the upset and happenings that Pepsi the dog is causing. Granny can see the funny side of everything Pepsi does and it is ultimately because of her that the dog gets to stay.

Children will laugh at the funny scenarios presented in this early independent reader novel.

The author has a real dog called Pepsi with his own web page that you can look up here:

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Message in a Sock

Message in a Sock by Kaye Baillee, illustrated by Narelda Joy (MidnightSun Publishing) HB RRP $27.99 ISBN 9781925227383

Reviewed by Brook Tayla

This very touching and true war story is special. It doesn’t just depict a time in history -- it transports you right there. Unlike most war stories, this story focuses on the women left at home during WW1 and homes in on one aspect of how they supported their men – the soldiers.

Author Kaye Baillie tells the story of a little girl placing messages into the toes of socks that her mother has knitted during a war appeal to assist Australian soldiers serving in France. She includes other features in her story, including a poetic ‘Knitter’s Song’ that encapsulates the whole premise of this tale and the words of the original letter that sparked this book into being. Her story is underpinned by excellent historical research that makes this tale even more touching.

Narelda Joy’s collage illustrations perfectly compliment not only the story but the era of war. The colours and materials used have very vintage muted tones in hues of brown, green and blue. Another interesting aspect is that all the people in this story, including the child protagonist, Tammy, are always looking down, but the soldier looks you straight in the eye – a very open for interpretation move on the part of the illustrator.

This beautiful book and its unusual perspective will be treasured for not only it’s uniqueness but also for it’s truthful historical interpretation.
I feel very special to have known about this book for quite a long time. Kaye Baillee told me about it on the first day I met her, and I have been anticipating it’s release since 2016! Congratulations Kaye – it was worth the wait!

There is a very special Book Launch happening for ‘Message in a Sock’ for those who would like to attend on Anzac Day, 25th April, 2pm – 3pm at The National Wool Museum, 26 Moorabool Street, Geelong, Victoria. Here are the details: MidnightSun Publishing together with author Kaye Baillie and illustrator Narelda Joy are proud to launch their picture book, MESSAGE IN A SOCK at the National Wool Museum with FREE ENTRY to the Museum all day.

Join Sue Lawson, writing teacher and young adult author of books including FREEDOM RIDE and PROTEST IN AUSTRALIA as she discusses MESSAGE IN A SOCK with Kaye Baillie and Narelda Joy. Listen to a reading from the book then handle replica World War 1 socks knitted by a talented Red Cross volunteer. Enjoy a hot drink and Anzac biscuit then view the Museum’s sock knitting machines and the collection displaying the full story of wool.  National Wool Museum volunteers will demonstrate ‘casting on’ and signed copies of MESSAGE IN A SOCK will be available for purchase.

Brook Tayla writes a picture book review blog at and would love you to drop by, read some reviews, leave a comment and subscribe.  Brook also offers editing services for beginning and emerging writers.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse

Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse by Jacqui Halpin, illustrated by John Phillips (Little Pink Dog Books) HB RRP $24.95 ISBN 9780994626929

Reviewed by Stacey Gladman

In life there are adversities and challenges around every corner, the real challenge is how we deal with them. Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse introduces the reader to a racehorse, with a rather unique problem. 

Parmesan is a racehorse, or is he? As far as Parmesan is concerned he very well could be a dog, and since birth he has done everything like a dog, from stretching like a dog to even fetching like a dog.

Unfortunately for Parmesan, he is not a dog and with champion heritage parents, his owner expects big things for him on the race track. One day Parmesan's owner came to visit him at the stables expecting to see a champion racehorse in training, but what he finds is a horse who thinks he is a dog. 
His owner threatens to sell Parmesan if he is not race-ready, which is upsetting for his trainer, Joe. Joe tries and tried to remind Parmesan he is a horse, but nothing is working. From tying a carrot to a stick in front of him, Joe tries everything until inspiration strikes: what if he makes the race like a game of fetch, which Parmesan adores? 
It seems that dogs can be champion racehorse; well at least for Parmesan they can. For the first time in his life, Parmesan feels like a racehorse. "He ran like a horse. He won like a horse. He even fetched like" While racehorses might not be well known for their fetching skills, Parmesan shows that you can be more than what's expected of you and to test boundaries. 

Parmesan, the Reluctant Racehorse is a charming story of testing boundaries and embracing your differences, no matter what your quirkiness may be. I loved the use of humour in the story, and it was a subject matter slightly different that I think will appeal to younger children.

The picture book is beautifully illustrated with colourful imagery that grabs the attention of readers both young and old alike. 

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Ready. Set. Discover Logan

Ready. Set. Discover Logan by Karen Tyrrell, Illustrated by Aaron Pocock (Digital Future Press) PB RRP $18
ISBN 9780994302199

Reviewed by Wendy Haynes

Follow Yana as she discovers The City of Logan. This is a light-hearted picture book telling the story of Yana who has moved from her country and surrounding she knows so well, to a new country, Australia. Yana feels alone, everything is different, but with the help of Bunji, a local Indigenous boy Yana is taken on a tour of discovery. This tour highlights the many meeting places in The City of Logan, South of Queensland, bringing with it a better understanding of the rich Nature Reserves and cultural experiences available within the community. 

The essence of this book is about community, and the underlying message is one of friendship, acceptance, and merging of cultures. This story is aligned with Harmony Day, sponsored by The Logan City Council and winner of Art Queensland Grant.
It also recognises the First People of Australia and invites readers, particularly newcomers, to discover a new land, a new home, to enable them the feeling of belonging. Among other places, Yana explores Logan City Library, Riverdale Park, and Chung Tian Temple.

 Karen Tyrrell has created an avenue to help children adjust to what can be a difficult time, while Aaron Pocock has enhanced the story with a palette of inviting colours and delightful illustrations that would suit 6 – 8 year olds.