How Many Peas in a Pod? by Margaret Allum and Judy Watson

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Counting is an integral part of our lives. And most young children learn about counting and numbers quite naturally before starting school. Counting books which encourage children to work out and augment numbers not only increases children’s capabilities in maths, but also help with numeric confidence, and are lots of fun. How Many Peas in a Pod is a cute counting book which features lovely ink and watercolour illustrations full of humorous detail, and nice big flaps for children to lift. The book asks children to count familiar and alliterative scenes like cows in a cornfield, socks in a suitcase, or bugs in a box, lifting the flap to find the answer. The numbers move from one to twelve, and finish with a kind of funny “too many to count,” that will get children laughing every time.

The repetition of sounds will also help with reading and general linguistic skills, and there lots of funny things for young children to point out. The ladybugs ballet looks rather less graceful than one might expect, the dancing jellybeans have big smiles on their face, the pumpkins have silly faces, and the lazy lizards are true loungers. If your children are anything like mine, they may well try to count the flowers in the field. The soft but rich pastel shades used by illustrator Judy Watson also allow for colour games (“what colour is the duckie?”), and will spark young children’s imagination.

This hardcover book is nicely presented enough to make a good gift. The fold over flaps are large enough so they won’t get broken off the way pasted-on ones will, and will encourage young children to participate in the story telling process. There are many counting, lift-the-flap book son the market, but this one is particularly funny, and with its linguistic alliteration, its big flaps, and its surprise ending.

How Many Peas in a Pod? by Margaret Allum and Judy Watson Little Hare
Hardcover, 16 pages
ISBN: 1877003794, Price (Aust RRP): $14.95
May 2005

This review first appeared at Preschool Entertainment. It appears here with permission.

Antarctica, by Coral Tulloch

Antarctica is the highest, driest, windiest, coldest, cleanest, most isolated and most peaceful continent on Earth. It is a continent of wilderness, a place of enormous size and energy, of constant change and of great and rare beautfy.

Antarctica is a place of fascination to many people. It looms as a frontier-land, almost unreachable and almost as alien as the moon.

In this volume, author Coral Tulloch allows children to understand Antarctica – its geography, its history, its animal and plant life. She explains the research that goes on at Antarctic bases and elaborates on its importance, not just to Antarctica, but to the whole world.

Coral Tulloch visited Antarctica as part of a supply mission and this book is the product of that visit and of research and support from others who have been there. The information in the book is accessible to children but not over-simplified, and is supported by illustrations, photographs and maps. Suitable for children aged 8 and up, especially those in upper primary and lower secondary school, this would be an invaluable addition to classroom or library collcstions.

Antarctica, by Coral Tulloch
ABC Books, first published in hardcover 2003, this paperback edition 2005


Puberty Girl, by Shushann Movessian

The challenges of puberty can be a difficult part of growing up for girls – and for their parents. As they make the transition from girl to woman they come face to face with the challenges of changing bodies and, especially, menstruation. Even the most communicative girls may have some questions they don’t know how to ask, while other questions may not be asked because they haven’t thought to ask them yet.

Puberty Girl has answers to all the questions girls might want to ask – what changes will happen, why they will happen and how to deal with them. There is plenty of practical information about body parts, bras, tampons, pads and more, as well as anecdotes from girls who have been there already.

The tone of the book is relaxed and chatty but it is also very honest. It is designed to help girls feel that puberty is nothing to be scared about and to help parents or carers provide straight-forward information in a no-nonsense manner.

A gem for parents, this will also find a home in school libraries and health education departments.

Puberty Girl, by Shushann Movsessian
Allen & Unwin, 2004

The Crazy Creatures Drawing Book, by Robert Ainsworth

Kids love to draw and this little spiral-bound offering from Robert Ainsworth encourages them to do just that. While other drawing books on the market show children how to draw everyday things such as cars, animals or even their favourite characters, this one encourages them to make up their own creations by using their imaginations to give life to crazy creatures.

Step-by-step, readers are shown how to take a simple shape and, by adding arms, legs, heads, facial features, movement lines and more, give it a unique personality. There are loads of examples and extra hints to take the illustrations to fully-fleshed cartoon figures.

This offering will be lots of fun for primary aged children, even those who think they are not good at art. Even this reviewer found herself doodling!

The Crazy Creatures Drawing Book, by Robert Ainsworth
Scholastic, 2005


The Dark Mirror, by Juliet Marillier

When four year old Bridei is fostered by Broichan, the King’s druid, he has no idea of what implications this holds for his future. Broichan is part of a secret council of elders who have plans for Bridei and for the future of their homeland. In the meantime, Bridei knows only that he must apply himself to his studies and be always obedient.

When Broichan is away, in the depths of winter, Bridei receives an amazing gift. In the middle of the night a baby is left in the snow outside the house. Bridei is sure this little girl, Tuala, has been sent as his sister. As the two children grow up together they forge a bond which no one can break. Will it threaten the future of the whole land?

The Dark Mirror is book one in The Bridei Chronicles, a new historical fantasy trilogy from one of the best of the genre’s creators, Juliet Marillier. The plot is skilfully layered, with plenty of twists and turns and characters who, in turn, are often surprising.

Fans of Marillier’s work (other offerings include the Sevenwaters trilogy) will be delighted with this new offering. Readers new to her work will be intrigued enough to seek out her other works. All will look forward to the next instalment.

The Dark Mirror, by Juliet Marillier
Tor, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, 2004 – this edition 2005

Willow the Wombat, by Natalie Jane Parker

Willow decided to explore the basement…His eyes widened and a huge smile spread across his face as suddenly he realised the rusty old lock was gone.

Willow the Wombat is bored. It is another wet day and he knows his mother won’t let him play out in the rain. When he heads down to explore the basement, his boredom soon vanishes. His grandfather’s old trunk is unlocked and inside it are old journals and mementoes. Soon, Willow is reading the journals and reliving some of Grandpa’s adventures.

Willow the Wombat is a beautifully presented book, with illustrations sure to capture the hearts of young readers. It is a large book (30 centimetres square) and, with gold lettering and realistically detailed water and wildlife on the cover, stands out as a book children will want to explore.

Willow’s adventures are interesting and the subtle messages about judging the elderly and about using the imagination are good ones, but it is really Parker’s bright, detailed illustrations which are the making of this book. The details of Willow’s fur and the glint in his eyes make him realistic, even when he’s wearing clothes and each of the different settings is skilfully portrayed and differentiated, giving the various spreads a variety which children will love to explore.

A favourite illustration is the picture of Willow and his friend Eddie Echidna on a rock plateau at sunset. The characters are lit by the setting sun in front of darkened hills and a tiny blue wren observes.

Simply beautiful.

Willow The Wombat, written and illustrated by Natalie Jane Parker
Brolly Books, 2005

And Kangaroo Played His Didgeridoo, by Nigel Gray

You should have come to the Great Aussie Do,
The guest list read like an Aussie Who’s Who,
And Kangaroo played his didgeridoo.

With a possum in a pink tutu, a well-dressed cockatoo and a gecko sporting a tattoo, the guest-list at this Outback shindig is both impressive and funny. Author Nigel Gray manages to keep the same end-rhyme working throughout the story, which will amuse young readers and listeners and help them to predict the rhyming words as well. Adult readers will find it easy to capture the rhythm of the piece.

The comic-style illustrations of Glen Singleton are a perfect complement and the tease of having just the end of Kangaroo’s didgeridoo visible on all but the last two illustrations will keep youngsters turning pages and avoids repetitiveness in the illustrations.

First released in 1995, it is easy to see why this offering continues to be popular. There is no great conflict or puzzle to be solved – it is simply a fine rhyme detailing the guest list and happenings at the party. The interest is in the variety of attendees and in the already-mentioned end-rhyme.

And Kangaroo Played His Didgeridoo, by Nigel Gray, illustrated by Glen Singleton
Scholastic, 1995, this edition 2005

Farewell My Ovaries, by Wendy Harmer

When the doctor tells Claire Wallace she is perimenopausal, Claire is shocked. She has a six year old daughter, her best friend is pregnant, and Claire isn’t ready to be middle aged. So when she meets Connor Carmody, a younger man who is attracted to her just as much as she is attracted to him, Claire decides to have a last fling. She plans a farewell party for her ovaries – and she and Connor will be the only ones in attendance. Of course, Claire’s husband Charlie is not on the invite list.

Farewell My Ovaries is a witty, clever novel from author Wendy Harmer, who is perhaps best known for her work as a radio presenter and television comedian. This novel shows the breadth of her talents – this is not a book published because of its author’s fame; instead it is in print because it deserves to be. It is entertaining, well-crafted and, to just the right extent, true.

This is chick lit for the slighter more mature woman.

Farewell My Ovaries, by Wendy Harmer
Allen & Unwin, 2005

The Silent 7th, by Mark Johnston

The 7th Australian Infantry Division fought in some of the most famous battles of Word War II. Yet, while these battles and the places they were fought – including Tobruk, Milne Bay and the Kokoda Trail – have remained well-known, few Australians would realise the part the 7th Division played in them. It is this lack of public recognition, even during the division’s active days, that led to its members coining it ‘the silent 7th’.

Now, historian Mark Johnston chronicles the history and achievements of the division in an illustrated hardcover volume: The Silent 7th. With over 200 photographs, some official but most unposed, the volume provides an in depth view of the conditions in which the soldiers fought and lived. As well as maps, there are two appendices which detail casualties suffered by members of the division and honours and awards won.

This is an important book, because it fills a gap in the written history of Australia’s military campaigns. It will be of interest to historians and military enthusiasts, but is also accessible to anyone with an interest in Australia’s past.

The Silent 7th: An Illustrated History of the 7th Australian Division, by Mark Johnston
Allen & Unwin, 2005

Scary Bear, by Tania Cox

When Bear wakes early from his long winter sleep, he decides to find his friends and surpise them. And surprise them he does – but not in the way he had planned. Not expecting to see their friend, the other animals are frightened by the arrival of a huge scary bear. Chaos ensues as Bear scares each new friend and becomes increasingly confused by their reactions, until at last he realises what is happening.

Scary Bear is a cute new offering from South Australian publisher, Working Title Press. The text by Tania Cox, though a little predictable to adult readers, is gently humorous and as the pattern builds up, children will be able to join in with the story. The illustrations of Danny Snell are divine, with Bear cuddly and endearing and the rich green acrylic landscapes fresh and inviting. The illustrations are not fussy, but there is enough detail to keep young readers absorbed.

Very cute.

Scary Bear, by Tania Cox, illustrated by Danny Snell
Working Title Press, 2005