Yoga Babies, by Fearne Cotton ill Sheena Dempsey

We’re the Yoga Babies,
look what we can do.
George can sit up straight like this.
Can you do it too?

Yoga Babies’ features 11 babies/toddlers and myriad yoga positions, across a day. There are many cultures represented and a variety of urban and less-so dwellings. Illustrations also depict a wide variety of families. Endpapers begin with the babies heading into class, and end with them assuming a range of poses.

Yoga Babies’ has been vetted by a yoga instructor, and includes many poses that yoga practitioners will recognise. If they are parents/carers of young children, they will also recognise some of the challenges as well as benefits of sharing yoga time with small people. First published in UK. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

Yoga Babies, Fearne Cotton ill Sheena Dempsey
New Frontier 2018
ISBN: 9781925594072

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Ash Dresses her Friends written & illustrated by Fu Wenzheng

Ash, the azure-winged magpie,
lives in a nest all by herself

Ash lives by herself and although peripherally included in local bird gatherings, remains almost silent. Her companions are bigger, louder, perhaps more confident than she is. She imagines herself condemned to a life of solitude and loneliness. Until she encounters a sad elephant in need of a shirt. So she makes him one. He tells other animals and one by one, she kits them out in rose-covered clothing. When her fabric is all gone, Ash is alone again, until her new friends gather around her. Illustrations are in black, white and red. End papers are red on white and show all the flower-dressed animals.

Ash feels lost in a crowd of other birds, and they seem almost not to notice the small, quiet neighbour. But when she encounters the elephant, Ash realises that there are others who might be friends, and other ways to make friends. As the story progresses, there are hints on each opening to show who will be the recipient of Ash’s next creation. Limited colour palette used to great effect. Originally published in China. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

Ash Dresses her Friends, Fu Wenzheng
New Frontier Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925594027

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Legend Series Book 6: On the Buzzer by Michael Panckridge

The day after the Legend of Soccer presentations, a Friday, was cold and wet. I slept in. Mum had gone to work, but she and Dad must have decided that a day away from school would be good for me. He had a rostered day off so that worked too.
I kept looking at my watch and wondering what all the kids at Sandhurst were up to.

At lunchtime I grabbed Dad’s phone and sent a text message to Bryce. I wanted him to know that I could still come around to his place for the Legends party.

The Legend Series has moved on from soccer. This competition is about basketball. Mitchell and his mates are keen, as is a new student, Rat. The mystery in the library seems to become more complex as they discover more. The focus is on basketball, a trophy that seems a permanent fixture at Wetherwood School, one of the other competitor schools. The stakes are getting higher and not everyone is playing by the rules. The final game is so close, nobody is game to predict the outcome. Extras include a quiz and school scoresheets.

The Legend Series measures achievement across a range of different sports, with elements of knowledge as well as skills, at Sandhurst Primary School. It encourages fair play and rewards teamwork. Mitchell, newcomer to the school, loves his sport, but he’s also keen to establish and maintain friendships. Travis Fisk is also a keen and skilled sportsman, but seems to have a philosophy of winning at all costs. Their friendship group also includes several of the best sportsgirls at the school, as well as members with other skills that are valued as much as sporting prowess. An exploration of school and student dynamics and the role of competition and sports. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers.

Legends Series Book 6: On the Buzzer, Michael Panckridge
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272932

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Legend Series Book 5: Over the Wall, by Michael Panckridge

I still couldn’t quite believe what had happened last week after the Legend of Football presentations.
A group of us had raced off to the library straight after the presentation assembly. We hadn’t heard a thing from Bryce, who had shoved his mobile phone into our hands moments before the end of lunch that day. Then he’d headed off to, we assumed, the library. Outside the hall there were parents, students and teachers milling about everywhere. There was a great-looking afternoon tea for everyone, with visitors and kids alike tucking in.

‘Over the Wall’ is Book Five in the Legend series that sees Mitchell and friends competing at different sports. There’s a girls’ comp that runs simultaneously and there’s overlap in some sports. This time, soccer is the contested sport. Mitchell and his arch-rival Travis Fisk are neck and neck in the overall competition. As they and others duel for points, there’s a mystery beyond the library that is occupying time and mind. There are also extras, including score sheets for the Legend Series, and a quiz.

Mitchell has only arrived at Sandhurst school for this final year of primary school. So there’s plenty he doesn’t know about the school, the students and the sports competition. As the series progresses, he builds a friendship group, becomes familiar with the cultures of his new school and of the other schools involved in the sports competition. He’s competitive and skilled, but also knows how to play fair. This provides a point of contrast with Travis Fisk who seems to come from a family where winning is the only option, no matter the cost. Recommended for readers in mid- and upper-primary, particularly those who would rather be out playing sport.

Legend Series Book 5: Over the Wall, Michael Panckridge
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272925

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase, by Matt Porter

‘Good old Collingwood forever, they know how to play the game!’ my ringtone proudly sings.
Eddie McGuire is calling me. It’s the third time today. He may be president of the Collingwood Football Club, and I the captain of the women’s team, but this is getting ridiculous.
‘Hey, Ed,’ I say … again.

Steph Chiocci is on a post-season break from her duties as captain and player in the AFLW league. She’s supposed to be resting, but instead she’s in England after receiving a letter from a fan. Emily’s grandmother is a cheesemaker but is under attack from a rival trying to push her out of business. Emily wants Steph to compete on her grandmother’s behalf in the Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling Race. Steph is up for the challenge, but rolling a cheese is not the same as bouncing a football. Steph needs to work on her game plan. Added extras at the end include Steph Facts, Q&A and some football tips for aspiring players.

What do football players do in the off-season? Chase cheese of course! ‘Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase’ is the first in a new series of chapter books, called Footy Stars, featuring stars of AFLW. Steph not only takes on a challenge, but also outwits a bully and saves a cheese business. There are plenty of laughs here as well as a footy tip or two. Recommended for mid-primary readers and fans of football. Extra interest if reader is a Collingwood fan!

Stephanie Chiocci and the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Chase, Matt Porter
Ford St Publishing 2018
ISBN: 9781925272888

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Swan Lake by Anne Spudvilas

It is midnight. The young prince has been hunting in the forest with a party of friends. Now he is alone and deep in thought. It is the eve of the grand ball that the Queen is holding in his honour. He must choose a bride from all the princesses in the land. His heart is heavy.

The story of Swan Lake is known and loved. In this picture book version, the story is set out first in text, as it is in the ballet. Each of the three acts is summarised on a single page, then shown in mostly monotone illustrations in the following pages. In the first act, a prince meets the Swan Queen, who has been cursed by a Sorcerer. In Act 2, the ball proceeds and the Prince is bewitched by the Sorcerer’s daughter. In Act 3, he realises he has been tricked and pursues the Swan Queen.

Swan Lake’ is simply glorious, from the swan embrace on the front cover, through the drama and tragedy, all the way to the final dramatic image. Setting it in the three acts allows those familiar with the story to ready themselves for the next instalment, and for those new to the story to absorb the words before tipping headlong into the romance of the images. It is no surprise that the story spills across 48 pages rather than the more familiar 32 pages. Colour is used sparingly and with great insight and skill. Notes at the end give some hints of techniques used to create images. Highly recommended for lovers of dance and this story; for artists and creators; and for readers of all ages.

Swan Lake, Anne Spudvilas
Allen & Unwin 2017
ISBN: 9781743318454

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Slowly! Slowly! by T. M. Clark, ill Helene Magisson

Bongani stood tall.
‘Dad, am I big enough? Am I higher than the hyena? Can I go to school?’
‘No, my son. But today you can look after the crops. Chase the animals away.’

Bongani is desperate to go to school, but he’s too small. His father has another job for him. He can protect the crops from the cunning crows and the marching monkeys. He does his jobs but would rather be at school with his cousins. His grandfather, seeing his sadness, tells him that his cousins will never have the chance to catch a monkey. Despite his sadness, Bongani is intrigued. Slowly, slowly, says his grandfather. That’s how you catch a monkey. Illustrations are in pencil and watercolour in rich greens and blues, purples and oranges.

It’s a terrible thing to be too small to do what you want to do, when growing is taking too long. Bongani is keen to go to school but he is too small. His father sets him a task to keep him occupied but it is his grandfather who diverts him and teaches him how to catch a monkey. It is Bongani, however, who makes his own decisions once a monkey is caught. Grandfather’s gentleness and instructions allow Bongani to learn how to catch a monkey, and then to learn the consequences of the catching. A lovely story of family and learning. An interpretation of a traditional African tale, ‘Slowly! Slowly!’ will appeal to pre- and early-schoolers.

Slowly! Slowly! T. M. Clark ill Helene Magisson
Wombat Books 2017
ISBN: 9781925563221

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris ill James Hart

Mr Bambuckle’s first day at Blue Valley School was a most remarkable day. the fifteen students of 12B straggled in after the bell to find their new teacher balancing on a unicycle, on top of a desk. He was singing in full voice about ‘glorious days’ and ‘magical ways and, as the students took their seats, he told them it was a rare Mongolian welcome song.

Mr Bambuckle is like no teacher the students of 12B have ever encountered. It’s not just that he can balance on his unicycle on the desk. It’s not just that he seems more exciting than Miss Schlump. He has an answer for their every question, even when he’s saying that it’s too dangerous to meet his Indian spark-maker beetle. Within minutes, he is smiling at their principal, Mr Sternblast, despite the latter’s gruffness. ‘Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ begins with character sketches of all the class, and illustrations are scattered throughout.

Mr Bambuckle is more than a little magical. He knows the students’ names before they tell them and he can immediately see what they need from him as a teacher. But even though he can see it, he structures his classes so the students discover their own strengths and challenges. There are no cross words, no punishments, and every member of the class starts to perform to their abilities. In between these subtle lessons, there are stories, jokes, magic and even bacon. What’s not to love? Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables’ is a new series for readers who like their stories wrapped in ridiculousness and humour. Recommended for mid- to upper-primary readers. Would also work a treat as a read-aloud.
Mr Bambuckle’s Remarkables by Tim Harris ill James Hart Random House Australia 2017 ISBN: 9780143785859

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Mallee Boys by Charlie Archbold

You know, when you walk into a murky river you could step on anything. I’ve never understood how easily some people will just leap on in when they can’t see a thing. I suppose it’s like life; maybe I could do with just stepping in more an looking less.
Sandy’s a funny kid. I say kid, but he’s not much younger than me. He’s fifteen. I’m eighteen. It’s only three years but sometimes it seems like thirty. Dad said I burst into the world, born effortlessly on the way to the hospital, which for a first baby was something. I screamed my lungs out and the doc told Mum she was a natural. Sandy though was way too early. Born premmie, he had to spend his first few months in hospital. Probably daydreaming in the womb and before he knew it he’d just drifted out.
Typical. Sandy causing a lot of drama for everyone. They had to get the flying doctors out and all sorts.

On a farm in the Mallee, Sandy and Red and their dad are adjusting to life following the death of their mother. Sandy is no natural farm boy, scared of goats and allergic to spring. He keeps his secrets tight. Red loves the farm but is so angry with the world that he may as well be a willy-willy – wild and out of control. Their dad is just trying to keep it together. Three of them, no talking, in a brutal landscape of wind and searing heat. It’s going to be a big year.

Mallee Boys’ is a wrenching, real story about grief and survival. It’s also about choosing your path, even if it’s not easy and might take you away from everything you know. The landscape is tough, but full of beauty for those who look for it. Plenty of themes in here: loss, responsibility, change, family, truth, communication. Without their mum to guide them, and with their dad drowning in his own loss, two young men have to make their own decisions and live with them. Recommended for mid- upper-secondary readers.
Mallee Boys, Charlie Archbold

Wakefield Press 2017 ISBN: 9781743055007

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Ickyfoodia: the Ultimate Guide to Disgusting Food by The Listies aka Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins

Ickyfoodia is our alphabetical guide to the disgusting foods, horrible recipes and weird meals that don’t get covered in other food books. We love food – in fact, we eat it every day! Sometimes the food we eat is delicious, but sometimes it’s totally grow.
We looked at lots and lots of food books and found that they are all about edible, healthy and altogether undisgusting foods But what about the other things we eat? The horrible hamburgers? The Terrible toast? The nasty noodles?

The Listies bring you an extravaganza of foods you may never have considered; food you may have eaten but have never seen in a cook book. Until now. ‘Ickyfoodia’ is dedicated to the ‘weirdo meal, the edible invention, things we eat when we aren’t sure we should’. Illustrated by the authors, there are exploding saucepans, glow-in-the-dark carrots, left-over mummifried chicken and all manner of other delicacies to see and make. Beware: there is a linguini bikini and vomatoes and other tummy-turning treats.

‘Ickyfoodia’ is an alphabet of awfulness, a tabling of terribleness, a mish-mash of monstrosities. There are recipes, cartoons, photos, lists, puns, and many many word plays. You may not want an invitation to any dinner proposed by the Listies, but you might want to share the recipes out loud. If you like your puns, and are a fan of gross, then this is the book for you. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Ickyfoodia: the Ultimate Guide to Disgusting Food, the Listies (Matt Kelly and Richard Higgins)
Penguin 2017
ISBN: 9780143784388

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller