Cocoon, by Aura Parker

The plan is to eat as many leaves as you can.
Then weave a cocoon.
Two weeks later…
TA-DA, you’re a moth!
With wings to fly! Easy peasy! I can’t wait.

Dawn and her caterpillar friends have known each other since they were larvae – and now they have a plan. They are eating every leaf they can find so they can get ready to build cocoons and, when their wings have grown, become moths. Dawn gets busy and soon she is snug in her cocoon. But inside, she waits impatiently, worrying whether her wings will develop, and how she will get out.

Cocoon is a sumptuous hard cover picturebook about the development of a moth from caterpillar to hatching, told through the voice of Dawn, with illustrations filled with whimsy and colour showing Dawn and her friends preparing for their metamorphosis. Once Dawn is in her cocoon, each spread shows just her, through a cross section of the cocoon, and illustrator Aura Parker cleverly uses a range of movements and some anthropomorphic props (books, a lantern, and even a teapot) to avoid repetition and add humour. The final images, showing Dawn and her friends emerging, are stunning, as are the endpapers.

Perfect to be enjoyed for the story alone, Cocoon would also have lots of classroom applicability.

Cocoon, by Aura Parker
Scholastic, 2019
ISBN 9781742765129

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Nick Bland

Trip, trap, trip trap,
TRIP TRAP

Three billy groats named gruff want to cross a bridge to eat the sweet grass on the other side – but first they must get past the grumpy troll who lives under the bridge and wants to eat them for his dinner.

While many adult readers will be familiar with this tale, many younger readers will not. author/illustrator Nick Bland brings it to life with his humorous style, which many will recognise from such favourites as the Very Hungry Bear. The text is simple, with visual features such as bold and larger font for key words, and the troll is rendered with humour making him more comic than fearsome to the reader.

Perfect for classroom or home reading.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Australia, 2019
ISBN 9781743815885

Say Something, by Peter H. Reynolds

If you are angry…   
Say something to help people understand.  

There are many ways to say the things that matter to you – through art, through actions and, of course, through speaking up – against wrongs, expressing needs, or voicing feelings. In this hardcover picture book, author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds uses simple text and cartoon-style images against colourful backgrounds to inspire readers to speak out, in whatever form they feel able, reminding readers that everyone has an opinion.

Using speech bubbles for both the narratorial voice, and for some of the depicted characters to speak to each other, the text speaks directly to readers of any age, and the accompanying illustration shows a diverse range of young people living out the message of the book – speaking, singing, painting, carrying protest signs and more.

Whether the reader is set to take part on a large scale demonstration, or simply needs encouragement to express themselves, Say Something will speak to them.

Say Something, by Peter H. Reynolds
Scholastic Australia, 2019
ISBN 9781760664992

My Storee, by Raul Russell & Aśka

Just because you can’t spell doesn’t mean you can’t write.

With a head full of fabulous story ideas, the young hero of this story loves to write and create – but only at home. At school, his writing efforts come back covered in corrections – his teachers tell him his spelling is wrong, and they can’t understand his work. Then a new teacher arrives at school, and sees past the spelling to the creativity beneath. Mr Watson tells the boy – and the whole class – that ideas an creativity come first, and spelling can be fixed later.

My Storee is a delightful look at the importance of creativity, and the problems faced by many writers around spelling and grammar.  the message is not that spelling never matters, but that creativity is needed too – and should be valued by creator and teacher alike. While being a good message for youngsters about taking risks, it is also a good reminder for teachers and parents that putting technical correctness ahead of creativity can stifle the latter and thus lead to students not writing at all.

As with the title, the text is riddled with ‘misspellings’, presented in a different font, so that readers can identify them, yet see that the meaning of the story remains clear. There are lots of learning opportunities here for students to practice editing, though it would be a shame to see the message of the story overshadowed by this.  Illustrations are filled with whimsy, with words and story snippets scattered throughout.

My Storee, by Paul Russell & Aśka
EK Books, 2018
ISBN 9781925335774

Duck! by Meg McKinlay & Nathaniel Eckstrom

It was a quiet afternoon on the farm, when suddenly…
DUCK!

The animals of the farm are doing what animals do – the horse swishing his tail, the cow chewing her cud, the pig wallowing and sheep sheeping. So, when duck starts yelling ‘Duck!’ and interrupting the peace, the other animals are not impressed. They don’t understand why Duck keeps yelling her name. Rather than listening to the warning, they chastise Duck – until Duck realises, a little too late, that ‘Run!’ might have been a better warning.

Duck! is a humorous picture book story about word play and confusing messages. Young readers will love the silliness of Duck’s dilemma – and the other animals’ inability to heed the warning as a tornado bears down on them. Picture clues will let readers in on what is happening, and the digital and acrylic illustration are filled with enough humour to make the characters endearing and the situation amusing.

Lots of fun in a story that will be requested again and again.

Duck!, by Meg McKinlay & Nathaniel Eckstrom
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781925381535

 

Wyrd, by Cate Whittle

A sudden gust of wind brushed the curtains aside, setting the candles on the dresses quivering, and sweeping around the feather into the centre of the star. It swirled to a halt, quill towards Emma. At the same time, the candle representing ‘Fire’ flared up, and the door rattled in its frame.
Everybody froze.

Emma is delighted when her Dad falls in love and proposes – until she realises  that  this means that Pip will be her stepsister. Emma and Pip do not see eye to eye about anything, and now they are going to be living together!  Things don’t improve after the wedding, with Pip doing everything she can to make Emma’s life difficult. Then, when she drags Emma into her attempts to cast magic spells, something strange happens – it is Emma who can suddenly do magic. Emma has never wanted to be a witch, but there doesn’t seem to be any way to reverse the spell. In the meantime, can she use her powers to change the status quo?

Wyrd traces the challenges of blended families, friendship and bullying, in a story which uses just a touch of fantasy, with Pip’s fascination for magic seemingly unproductive until well into the story.  Young readers will enjoy the challenges and moral dilemmas which Emma’s new skills create.

Suitable for middle primary aged readers.

 

Wyrd, by Cate Whittle
Omnibus Books, 2018
ISBN 9781742994321

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather by Sally Murphy

‘Where are you going this time’ my friend Lucy asks when I tell her I will be away from school the following week.
‘Townsville,’ I say. ‘In Queensland.’
‘Is it near Crystal Bay?’ she asks.
I shake my head. Last year Lucy came with us when we visited Crystal Bay. It was a fun holiday, even though I was locked up in a storeroom by a mean lady called Nancy who thought I was spying on her.

Ten-year-old Sage Cookson accompanies her television chef parents whenever they travel to shoot an episode of their famous cooking show. It could be lonely, and she does miss her best friend Lucy, but each trip is full of adventure and often intrigue. This time, the family are off to Townsville in Queensland in search of sun, sand, sea and seafood. Just off the coast, headed their way is a cyclone. Their time in Townsville is nothing like they thought it would be, but Sage and her family manage to bring their own sunshine. And she nails her school assignment! Text is large, images accompany every chapter heading and as a bonus, there’s a recipe at the end!

Sage’s life is an unusual one. Mostly, it’s an adventure and she has caring parents who make sure she is safe AND completes her school work. She manages her social isolation by keeping in regular contact with her friend, Lucy. She can also rely on the long-time crew of her parents’ show. But she’s never experienced a cyclone from this close and this trip is more ‘exciting’ than she could have imagined. In the aftermath, she finds a way to help the helpers. Recommended for newly independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Stormy Weather, Sally Murphy New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594263
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Keeper of the Crystals 7: Eve and the Rebel Fairies by Jess Black

Eve felt sleepy. She and Oscar had been out all day with Eve’s Dragon, Ingvar, enjoying the brilliant summer weather and celebrating school holidays. It was past their bedtime, but she and Oscar needed to get his bed sorted out before they could crash.
‘It was nice of your gran to let me stay for a few days while Mum and Dad are away.’ Oscar yawned as he helped Eve unroll the spare mattress.

Eve, her friend Oscar and Eve’s dragon, Ingvar are back in a new magical adventure. This time, it’s the fairies who need help. There’s only a finite amount of magic in the enchanted world and two rogue fairies are ensuring that it’s being used faster than is sustainable. If they are to help safe the tree of life, Eve and co will need to find the fairies and somehow convince them to change their ways. Illustrations accompany each chapter heading.

Keeper of the Crystals is a series of early chapter books. In each, Eve is able to access the worlds of magical creatures. In fact, she is called to help when other worlds are in danger. Although she can’t fly herself, she does have a companion dragon who is happy to carry her (and Oliver) if and when necessary. ‘Eve and the Rebel Fairies’ has a strong message about the effect humans are having on the planet and the consequences for other occupants. An adventure for lovers of magic and of our world. Recommended for newly confident readers.

Keepers of the Crystals 7: Eve and the Rebel Fairies, Jess Black New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594218

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Mr Pegg’s Post by Elena Topouzoglou

Anna lived with her mum and dad in a lighthouse by the edge of the sea.
Anna would spend her days indoors reading or outside, in her rowboat, while the sun was shining.
But Anna was lonely.

Every day Mr Pegg, the pelican postman, would drop off letters for her parents. Every day Anna hoped for a letter just for her.
Anna is lonely. The only visitor to the lighthouse is Mr Pegg, bringing mail for her parents. No one every sends her letters. So when a storm blows Mr Pegg off course and he hurts his wing, Anna is more than happy to help out. Together they deliver the mail all along the coast. This can’t last and when Mr Pegg is better, Anna is resigned to returning to her lonely isolation. But when Mr Pegg returns, there is more than one surprise for Anna. Illustrations are watercolour and pencil and depict an island and landscape that look quite Mediterranean.

To some children, Anna’s life looks exotic. She lives in a lighthouse and has her own rowboat. Anna’s life would be perfect if she could just have a friend to share it with. A chance accident provides the opportunity for Anna to help out the postie and to make some friends. ‘Mr Pegg’s Post’ is a story of loneliness, friendship and the power of communication. Recommended for preschool and early schoolers.

Mr Pegg’s Post, Elena Topouzoglou New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN:9781925594195
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Lucia and Lawrence by Joanna Francis

Lucia and Lawrence are next-door neighbours.
Lucia has a head full of dreams that reach as high as the sky and as deep as the sea.
Lawrence has a head full of numbers that are useful, predicable and safe.

Lucia and Lawrence live side by side but have very different personalities. Their friendship is coloured by Lucia’s exuberance and Lawrence’s reticence. Yet, mostly they find a middle ground that allows them to play together. Until Lucia’s birthday. Lucia invites Lawrence to join in her celebration, but Lawrence says no. That’s all. No. Lucia parties without him, and it’s only afterwards that she discovers there are different ways to celebrate. Illustrations are pencil and watercolour and show their two worlds becoming one.

Lucia is very outgoing and a little bit wild. Lawrence is pretty much the opposite and feels safest in his room with his numbers. But their friendship happens at the intersection of their personalities, with their imagination. Together, their adventures harness the talents and strengths of each. A gentle story of friendship. Recommended for early schoolers.

Lucia and Lawrence, Joanna Francis
New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594157

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com