Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Christmas titles

There are 58 days left until Christmas...which means there are only 9 more weekends...

So what does that mean?

The Christmas books are hitting the shelves!

There are some beautiful titles due out this Christmas - well worth a look for a stocking filler or two.

'One night' by Penny Matthews and illustrated by Stephen Michael King

On the very first Christmas eve, according to the traditional folktale, all the animals were given a special gift to celebrate the  birth of Jesus. This retelling of that tale is beautifully crafted by Penny Matthews and Stephen Michael King.

$24.99 RRP
Recommended 3+ years
Scholastic Press

'Deck the shed with bits of wattle' by Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion, illustrated by Glen Singleton

'Deck the halls' with an Aussie flavour. Complete with a sing-along CD Rom this book will quickly become a favourite at home and in the classroom. Syd Echidna's shed was all set for Christmas until a wind storm comes along. What will Syd do? Join all the Australian animals as they help Syd get his shed back into shape for a ripper Christmas!

$19.99 RRP
Recommended 3+ years
Scholastic Press

The twelve days of Christmas by Alison Jay

Alison Jay has produced an absolute winner with her distinctive and beautiful style. 'The twelve days of Christmas' is visually engaging for all ages. Carefully explore each picture for hidden details with links between each page. This version of the ever-popular traditional song would make a perfect gift this Christmas.

$14.99 RRP
Recommended 3+ years
Koala Books

Santa's busy reindeer by Ed Allan and Nathaniel Eckstrom

Inspired by the song 'Ten green bottles', Ed Allan returns with 'Santa's busy reindeer'. Santa's ten reindeer are busy preparing for Christmas, completing all the traditional chores such as gift buying, delivering cards, baking and decorating. So much to do before delivering Santa's gifts!

Nathaniel Eckstrom, the illustrator of 'The ugly duckling' with Justine Clarke, has brought his classic style to this beautiful picture book. 

Recommended 3+ years
Scholastic Press

There was an old bloke who swallowed a present by P. Crumble and Louis Shea

They're back! This time with a Christmas overhaul. 'There was an old bloke who swallowed a present' by Team Crumble and Shea reimagines the 'There was an old lady who swallowed a fly' scenario once again.

Children love the cumulative nature of these nonsense texts. With bright, colourful illustrations, this iteration is sure to please the fan base!

Paperback with lenticular cover including a moving image 
Recommended 3+ years
Scholastic Australia

The nights before Christmas illustrated by Tony Ross

This beautifully produced anthology of 24 classic tales, songs and stories provide a very special alternative advent treat. Reading a section each night, in the lead up to Christmas, is sure to delight young and old. Countdown to Christmas with extracts from 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens, 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott or enjoy carols such as 'Good King Wenceslas'. Well known illustrator, Tony Ross, brings these traditional tales to life all over again. A perfect early gift this Christmas and one to enjoy for many more. 

$29.99 RRP
Recommended 5+ years
Koala Books 

Monster Chef

Children's favourite, Nick Bland, brings to you his latest book, 'Monster Chef'. With Bland's inimitable style, and fun rhyming text, we are introduced to Marcel, the monster that just doesn't cut it as a monster. He just can't manage to scare a single kid!

In true reality cooking show style though, Marcel could whip up a frighteningly rotten and sludgy delight!

Hitting on the fact that he may make a terrible child scaring monster, his cooking sent the fear into anyone. Marcel decides there is only one thing for it...open a restaurant!

Great fun and perfectly illustrated, Nick Bland does it again!

$24.99 RRP
Scholastic Press
Recommended 4+ years 

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The Ugly Duckling

The classic Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tale, The Ugly Duckling, was reimagined by Frank Loesser and performed by Danny Kaye in the classic movie in 1952. Re-recorded by children's favourite Justine Clarke, this story has been reinvented with stunning illustrations by Nathaniel Eckstrom.

With the help of the trumpet, tuba and the marimba, Justine's recording adds another level to this story's interpretation and characterisation.

This all time favourite classic explores what it's like to be different and the pain that can come with the teasing and taunting. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and true acceptance brings about the poignant final message.

Complete with CD Rom, this book will make a beautiful gift.

Highly recommended 3+ years

Scholastic Australia
Hardcover + CD Rom
RRP $24.99

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Scarecrows' Wedding

From the creators of the Gruffalo comes a new book, 'The Scarecrows' Wedding'.

Scarecrows, Betty O'Barley and Harry O'Hay are getting married. With a list in hand, they set off around the farm to plan a wedding that no one will ever forget.

A variety of farm animals offer assistance to make this a wedding to end all weddings. The geese offer their feathers to make the dress, the cows will ring their bells, two helpful mice find a ring apiece and a stripy bee leads them to a field of pink flowers. Oh, and  a crab comes scuttling out with a necklace of shells...lucky for Betty, as a necklace of shells was on her wedding list!

Deciding he needs water to keep the flowers fresh, Harry sets off on another finding mission. Leaving Betty alone on the farm, she starts to worry. The farmer decides to make another scarecrow to take Harry's place.  What happens next can only be described as a little bewildering. The new scarecrow, Reginald Rake, is definitely pitched as 'the bad guy' in the book who tries to woo Betty with his dashing moves and smoke rings...

It is at this point in the story that many a parent and reviewer have been outraged. Should smoking be depicted in a children's picture book, in whatever light it is portrayed? Scholastic, the book's publisher, has issued a statement saying that it had carefully considered the plotline, but was satisfied in the end that smoking was not being promoted in anyway, in fact it was clearly articulated that it is bad for you.

Do bad guys need to smoke to be bad guys? Do young children need this sort of thing depicted in picture books? With the strict legislation around smoking advertising, depiction and promotion - I think this is a little too close for comfort.

The other thing that didn't ring true for me in this book was the crab that suddenly appears on the farm with a necklace of shells...but maybe that's just me!

Donaldson's rhyming text and Scheffler's distinctive illustrations will still appeal to many fans though, I'm sure.

Scholastic UK
Hard cover
RRP $24.99

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Grandma, the baby and me

'Grandma, the baby and me' explores the touching relationship between a young boy and his grandma. When a new baby is brought home, Henry just sees trouble... and so does grandma.

Henry find a strong alliance in his grandma - so much so that he struggles when things don't go to plan and grandma is not there!

This book beautifully explores the tricky changes in dynamics when a new baby is brought home.

Hannah Sommerville gently illustrates her first picture book; while the author of the 'Terrible Suitcase' returns with a story about what it means to be the older sibling. 

Recommended 4+ years
Omnibus Books
$24.99 RRP

Friday, 17 October 2014

Orion and the dark

English author/illustrator Emma Yarlett's style is immediately reminiscent of Oliver Jeffers.  Her new book, 'Orion and the Dark' explores the age-old theme of being afraid of the dark. Orion is afraid of a lot of things...storms, the sea, heights, monsters and even gran! The one night, Orion meets the Dark and together they go on an adventure to dispel all those fears. Facing all those shadowing, scary spots in the house with Dark by his side makes things just that little less frightening.

Die-cut pages add a lovely sense of interactivity to this text, while the multi-media illustrations are sure to add to an increased interest.

Check out Emma Yarlett's website for more pictures and information.

Recommended 4+ years
Koala Books
$14.99 RRP

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Oh dear, what can the matter be?

Based on the traditional rhyme 'Oh dear, what can the matter be?' this new book from P. Crumble comes complete with a Jay Laga'aia CD recording.

So what do all those funny farm animals get up to when no one is watching? You'll never guess!

Great rhythm in the text, which also allows for exploration of rhyme, simple noun groups and counting back from ten.

Bright colourful and humorous illustrations by Simon Williams will engage young children as they join in with the repetitive text.

Recommended 4+ years
Scholastic Australia
$19.99 RRP

Hurry up Alfie

Anyone who has lived with young children knows all too well the fun they love to have...especially when they should be doing something else!

Meet Alfie and his ever patient, if slightly exasperated (who could blame him?), father as they get ready for a trip to the park. And don't forget Steve McQueen, Alfie's ever present cat!

Anna Walker's beautiful illustrations tell a gentle story about morning routines, focusing on the task at hand (or not) and unending parental patience. Her use of various media in her illustrations give an added depth and interest to her books.

Perfect discussion starter with young children - about getting ready. Brought to you by the popular author of the 'I love Ollie' series and 'Peggy'.

Recommended 3+ years
Scholastic Australia

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Pig the pug

Pig was a pug and I'm sorry to say,
he was greedy and selfish in most every way.

Aaron Blabey returns with a story from which we could all learn a lesson. Being greedy and selfish was Pig's way - but he soon learned that was not always the best way!

Pig's flat mate, Trevor the sausage dog, just wanted to play - but Pig had other ideas.

Humorous read aloud book with a message and a lesson... having everything isn't always what it's cracked up to be!

Great text for exploring values and social expectations.

Check out the YouTube video with Aaron reading Pig the pug. 

Highly recommended for 3-7years
RRP $16.99
Scholastic Australia

Friday, 19 September 2014

Hello from Nowhere

Anyone who has spent time in Australia's outback will appreciate that Nowhere truly is magical!  

Eve lives in the middle of nowhere, a place where you never get bored or lonely. Bluey the lizard, Livestock the cat and Brian the magpie are just some of the locals that keep Eve entertained. 

Tourist buses weave their way through town, seasons come and go, but Eve wishes that just one special person could visit her. With a plan underway, Eve tries to convince her grandma that Nowhere really is somewhere special.

Celebrate all that is wonderful in Australia's outback and the special connection between and a grandparent and grandchild. Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair have teamed up to produce a book that is a pure delight and quintessentially Australian. 

Highly recommended 4-6 years

Hello from Nowhere
Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair
Penguin Group
Hardcover RRP $24.99

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The soldier's gift

In a year when we commemorate the 100th year since World War 1,  Viking has released a touching picture book titled, The soldier's gift. Written by Tony Palmer and illustrated by Jane Tanner, this publication is an incredibly moving narrative of one family's story during the horrors of Gallipoli.

Tony Palmer has long been interested in Australian history and it shows in the extensive research and resultant realism in his story.

Jane Tanner is a much loved Australian illustrator whose work is evocative and poignant. Together they have produced a collectable item in this centenary year.

Written from the perspective of a child, the harsh reality of family and war come alive in the pages of this book. End papers provide non-fiction background and photos to the book's setting. The story of the pine seeds brought home by diggers brings a real sense of reality to this publication.

Highly recommended for 6+ years. Whilst presented as a picture book, the word count is quite high. Older readers would find the end papers quite interesting.

Viking publishing (Penguin Group)
RRP $26.99

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

One Sunday

The prolific Pamela Allen has penned another heart warming picture book, 'One Sunday'.  

A little old man and a little old woman live in a tiny wooden house. They take comfort in routine and ritual, but sometimes things can come out of the blue. This delightful story is about the warmth and love that surround family and home. 

Great use of onomatopoeia and text incorporated in the illustrations, Pamela is a master of writing with musicality and vivid imagery. Sure to become a favourite.

Pamela Allen, author/illustrator
RRP $24.99
Recommended for 3 years +

I wanna be a pretty princess

Every little girl dreams of being a pretty princess. But what happens if your dreams come true and a fairy princess turns up and takes you through a princess makeover?

With the princess rule book in hand, anything is possible.

Learn how to dress like a princess.
Learn how to get your hair and makeup done like a princess.
Learn how to eat politely and dance gracefully like a princess. 
And even learn how to sit around and wait for your handsome prince to turn up.

Meet this modern girl who takes the whole princess rule book and re-writes it, her way!

Great fun and perfectly illustrated  - I wanna be a pretty princess by Heath McKenzie will appeal to many young modern princesses in the making.

NB The title of this book did provide a challenge for me in terms of the spelling of 'wanna'. If I was to use this book in the classroom, or even at home, I would use this opportunity to talk about the word and why perhaps the author chose that spelling. Turn it into a teachable moment, rather than let it go!

Author/illustrator - Heath McKenzie
Scholastic Press
$16.99 RRP

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

School Method - teaching reading in the 1800s

Fossicking around in an antique centre on the weekend, I stumbled across a text book for pre-service teachers dated 1897. This amazing little book details all that the beginning teacher needed to know upon entering a class in the 19th Century. Titled 'School Method.', it includes notes and hints from lectures delivered at the Borough Road Training College in London. Fastidiously notated by its original owner, this text reveals an incredible insight into teaching over a hundred years ago.

The chapter on teaching children to read is fascinating; the use of language quite remarkable. It details reading as being commonly allowed to be the most important of the "three R's" - as it is the great means by which we obtain an acquaintance with matters that lie out of the sphere of our own direct observation.

It goes on to say that reading is a difficult subject to teach and that this is chiefly for two reasons; one, the nature of the subject and two, the nature of the learners. 

Well, that pretty much covers all bases I would think.

The section on teaching the alphabet is something else though...
The teacher must endeavour to make this first stage as interesting as he can. His object will be to complete the association of form and name of each letter, as soon and in as pleasant a manner as possible. He must take into account the tender age of his pupils, and the mental and physical peculiarities inseparable from it; such as their love of novelty, and their inability to bear long-continued and exacting mental strain.

I never knew that teaching the alphabet needed to pleasant. Physical peculiarities? The mind boggles. I don't know about having to be of a tender age either to experience exacting mental strain - I think that would be more the domain of the teacher after reading this! 

This is a classic to treasure for many more years to come. I am just delighted that it found me - even with all my peculiarities!

Friday, 11 July 2014

A feast for Wombat

A feast for Wombat, written by well-known Australian Aboriginal author, Sally Morgan, celebrates the Australian outback and our native fauna.

Wombat doesn't think he's special and spends much of his time burrowed underground.

A story about friendship and support, it also cleverly explores how various features of different native animals are suited to their habitats and survival. Tania Erzinger's illustrations bring a certain earthiness and gentleness to the story.

Can Wombat run as fast as Goanna, sing as beautifully as Magpie or dance as elegantly as Dingo? Not quite - but Wombat is strong and is a great digger. How can his friends encourage him to know his own worth?

Recommended for 5+ years
Hardcover RRP $24.99
Omnibus Books

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Pizzica Pizzica by Hayley Egan

Pizzica Pizzica is Hayley Egan’s first picture book. Written and illustrated by Hayley, it presents a visual feast that is Italian folklore.

A farmer’s daughter is unable to rise one morning. Thinking she is unwell, her parents look for a doctor only to be told that she in fact needs musicians. Healing music soon begins playing throughout the home, lifting the heaviness from the daughter’s body. The illustrations provide a gentle rhythmic flow, conjuring the feel of a haunting dance. The accompanying text is written in both English and Italian.

Pizzica Pizzica is an ancient dance ritual from the southern Apulia region of Italy. Shrouded in mystery and legend, this dance was said to be the ceremonial healing for a tarantula bite. Festivals are still held to this day that celebrate this hypnotic, soul-cleansing dance.

This book has been created in consultation with ethnomusicologist, Salvatore Rossano who assisted in the research and translation. Its story will most certainly intrigue and spark an interest to discover more. 

Cultural traditions such as these need to be beautifully recorded  so that future generations, young and old, may continue to access these stories.

Being that Pizzica Pizzica is a bilingual book, it will prove highly valuable with the publishing of the Australian Curriculum - Languages in the near future. Italian is one of the languages being addressed under this new curriculum and the demand for resources like this can only increase.

Recommended for 4+ years

Self-published – contact author for sales http://hayleyeganart.com/books/books/

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Possum’s big surprise

Join Flossy the Possum as she scurries and scampers across the great Australian outback, coming across many hidden Aussie creatures. 

Playing ‘Guess the creatures’ with each page turn adds to the delight of this new book from Colin Buchanan and Nina Rycroft.

The text has great rhythm and pace directly relating to the action as the story unfolds.

So what are all these hidden creatures up to? Possum might just be in for a big surprise!

A great rollicking read – ideal for 3 years and older.

RRP $14.99

Monday, 16 June 2014


Gigantosaurus, so fierce and wild, with teeth as long as you are tall - all baby dinosaurs are warned of this most treacherous of threats!

Join Bonehead, Tiny, Fin and Bill as they set off to play one day during the Cretaceous period. Knowing that Gigantosaurus was never far away, Bonehead offers to be on the look out.

Soon enough the baby dinos realise that Bonehead is the prehistoric Boy who cried wolf. Very quickly they learn to ignore his warnings. Tired of his games, his friends leave Bonehead behind, only for him to finally face his nemesis, Gigantosaurus. What will happen to Bonehead?

While a work of fiction - the characters in the book are based on real dinosaurs. A vertical gatefold illustration reveals just how big Gignatosaurus is - complete with an information page at the end, this book is sure to delight all young dinosaur fans!

Written and illustrated by Jonny Duddle
Recommended for 3+ years
Koala Books
Paperback $14.99

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Snail and turtle are friends

'Snail and Turtle are friends' celebrates friendship, diversity and companionship.

Snail and Turtle are great friends and like to do things together, at their own pace, in their own way.

Stephen Michael King brings a wonderful sense of humour to this story as seen in both the words and pictures.  The irony depicted between the two brings another layer to this otherwise simple yet endearing story. Subtle messages in the drawings are ideal discussion starters particularly when looking at the literal meaning versus the inferential meaning.

The high gloss snail trails on various pages add to the overall sensory experience. Beautiful illustrations experiment with layout and colour throughout including vignettes and double page spreads.

Another winner from Stephen Michael King!

RRP $24.99
Recommended for ages 4+ years

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Do you dare?

On the back of the success of Penguin's 'Our Australian Girl' series, the 'Do you dare?' series promises to wrap you further into Australia's great history.

Pitched at boys aged between 8 and 12 years, this series fills a much needed hole in the market for historical fiction with an all Australian boy-hero flavour.

Written by prominent Australian authors, the 'Do you dare?' series takes us from 1836 through to 1931. These stories promise to be face paced and driven by adventure and I certainly think they have delivered. 

The title read for review purposes was 1844 - The last horse race, written by James Moloney. Gripping narrative, memorable characters and steeped in historical references, this book brought history to life and is sure to engage girls and boys alike. 

Based in Brisbane in the days of very early settlement, 'The last horse race' is an adventure packed novel with young Toby as the main protagonist. Join Toby and his mates as they take on villains and crooks, all in the name of freedom.

This was a great read - looking forward to reading the other titles in the series, namely: 1836 - 'Fighting bones'; 1841 - 'The bushranger's boys'; and 1931 - 'Tough times'.

Puffin (Penguin Group Australia)
RRP $14.99
Paperback novel 179 pages