Sorry Day by Coral Vass and Dub Leffler

There was a hum of excitement.
Flags flickered in the breeze as Maggie’s heart danced with delight.
‘This is a very special day!’ her mother said.

Maggie and her mum are waiting with thousands of others for an official apology from the Australian government about the Stolen Generations. Interspersed spreads tell the story of taken away from their parents because of policies made by the Australian government of the time. When Maggie is separated from her mother in the crowd, the stories coalesce. The loss of a child for even a few seconds is traumatic for both parent and child. How much worse then to see your child put in a truck and driven away. Finally, the Prime Minister of the day offers an apology to all those families disrupted and damaged by being separated from each other. The contemporary story is depicted in colour, the historical one mostly in sepia tones, like old photos. Final spreads include an explanation of the policy that led to the Stolen Generations. There are also photos of the event that promised to begin to repair the hurt.

National Sorry Day was first held on 26 May 1998 but the event featured here is 13 February when for the first time, an Australian Prime Minister apologised directly to the people of the Stolen Generations. The final spreads also offer a timeline. The depiction of a contemporary child being temporarily lost will be easily comprehensible to most young readers, and will allow them to empathise with the many children taken from their families. ‘Sorry Day’ offers the opportunity to begin discussion in the classroom and the home about belonging and loss. Recommended for primary schoolers.

Sorry Day, Coral Vass ill Dub Leffler NLA Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9780642279033

Scaredy Cat by Heather Gallagher and Anil Tortop

Have you seen my Scaredy Cat?
He’s afraid of this and afraid of that!
Afraid of bees and …
towering trees and …
Granny’s super-duper sneeze.

A small girl has lost her Scaredy Cat. Scaredy Cat is frightened of just about everything from bee to burglar. The narrator tells the reader all the things Scaredy Cat is scared of, then reassures all that she’s brave enough for both of them. Told in rhyme, the story builds to a ‘twist in the tale’ conclusion. Illustrations show only Scaredy Cat’s tail in each scenario. Cover art of this square format hardback also shows the searching girl and Scaredy Cat’s tail.

Scaredy Cat’ details all the things Scaredy Cat fears – mostly domestic situations that many small readers will encounter. In the way of small children, the bravery of the viewpoint character grows in proportion to the situations that her Scaredy Cat is spooked by, until she is vanquishing robbers like a champion! Young children will enjoy the rhyme and repetition as they turn the pages and try to find Scaredy Cat. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

Scaredy Cat, Heather Gallagher ill Anil Tortop New Frontier Publishing 2018 ISBN: 9781925594171
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Hole Story, by Kelly Canby

One day, Charlie found a hole.
He couldn’t believe his eyes.
A hole of his very own!
Charlie bent down, picked up the hole and popped it into his pocket.

When Charlie fins a hole, he is very excited, but he quickly discoevrs that having a hole in his pocket is a problem – and a hole in his backpack is even worse. So he sets out to find someone who needs a hole. For some people – – including the boat builder and the seamstress – a hole is very unwelcome, while others – including the donut seller – already have enough holes. Finally, after a very frustrating day, Charlie decides that the hole is worthless, and throws it away. He doesn’t see the very relieved rabbit, who has followed him all day, hope back into the hole it calls home.

The Hole Story is a humorous exploration of perspectives of usefulness and value, and could be read also as a critique of the need to ‘own’ things, particularly those things found in nature. Mostly, though, it is a whimsical, funny story which youngsters will love, with cartoon-style watercolour illustrations which are a delight to explore.

So much fun.

The Hole Story, by Kelly Canby
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591125

Room on Our Rock, by Kate & Jol Temple and Terri Rose Baynton

There’s no room on our rock
So it’s ridiculous to say
There’s space for plenty more
Shoo! Go away!

So begins this delightful, important picture book which explains in increasingly strident, mean tones why there is no room on the rock inhabited by a group of seals for two new seals – a mother and baby – to share. Except, when the end of the book is reached, the reader is invited to read the story again, this time from back to front – and reading it this way tells a different story, one of welcome, finishing with those first two pages: ‘So it’s ridiculous to say/There’s no room on our rock. ‘

The novelty of the palindrome format and the gorgeous illustrations will draw young readers in, but the message of compassion is hopefully what will endear them to the book and look for repeated readings and to share both book and message. And, if they enjoy the unusual format, they may also enjoy Drawn Onward, which serendipitously was released in 2017 and also uses the palindrome format to change negativity into hope.

A wonderful tool in the negative climate that surrounds debates about refugees and immigration.

Room on Our Rock, by Kate & Jol Temple, and Terri Rose Banyon
Scholastic Australia, 2018
ISBN 9781742764108

The Rainbow and Who Saw Turtle? by Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji

The shark with the glinting, pointy teeth saw Turtle.
The octopus with the dangly, stretchy tentacles saw Turtle.

As Turtle makes her way across the sea, the reader is asked ‘Who saw Turtle?’ giving an element of interaction to this delightful tale of a turtle travelling to lay her eggs. The illustrations, too, are interactive, encouraging both prediction and a close examination to see previous animals repeated.

Who Saw Turtle is beautiful picture book offering from Ros Moriarity, with indigenous artwork from the Balarinji studio. Together with The Rainbow, it offers both simple text and rich visuals, perfect for very young students and second language learners.

An important inclusion in both books is a back of book translation of the text into the Yanyuwa language, spoken by families in Borroloola, in the Northern Territory. Such use of traditional language is vital not just for the speakers of that language, but for promoting Australia-wide awareness of the existence and importance of the many languages of our first peoples.

In paperback format, this pair will be enjoyed for its simple, engaging text and rich, bright illustrations.

Who Saw Turtle? ISBN 9781760297800
The Rainbow, ISBN 9781760297794
both by Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji
Allen & Unwin, 2018

Dingo, by Claire Saxby & Tannya Harricks

Can you see her?
There – deep in the stretching shadows – a dingo.
Her pointed ears twitch.
Her tawny eyes flash in the low-slung sun.

It is dusk, and Dingo is awake, ready to hunt to feed her cubs. As she moves through the landscape, the reader learns about this dingo and, through her, the dingo species.

Dingo, part of the Nature Storybooks series from Walker Books, is a sumptuous picture book offering. The text is lyrical, pacing across the pages like Dingo paces across the landscape. The illustrations, in layered oil paintings, are rich and wild, matching the subject matter perfectly. Short factoids on each spread, in a different font, give the reader further detail about the species.

Perfect for young animal lovers to enjoy on their own, Dingo will also be a valuable classroom and library addition.

Dingo, by Claire Saxby & Tanya Harricks
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781925381283

In the Lamplight, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds

Bessie says the nurses have set to work at Harefield House, scrubbing floors, dragging beds and mattresses upstairs, unpacking bed linen and stamping it with their hospital mark.
The nurses are asking local women to read to the Australian soldiers. I wonder if I dare. Bessie says she’ll read to them if I will…

When war breaks out, fourteen year old Rose O’Reilly’s life changes. A local manor house is converted into a hospital for Australian soldiers, and soon Rosie is volunteering there, keeping the soldiers company and, eventually, allowed to help with their care. Rosie loves her job, but when she’s not busy, she worries about her brother, away fighting on the Western Front. Life in war-time England is not easy, but when a new Australian soldier arrives, Rose finds some happiness.

In the Lamplight is a satisfying complement to the Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, from the same author/illustrator pairing of Dianne Wolfer and Brian Simmons, again exploring Australian’s role in World War 1. This time the setting is England, with the main character an English girl, but with Australian soldiers being a key part of the story. As with the earlier books, the narrative uses a scrapbook like blend of diary entries from the perspective of the main character, photographs, newspaper clippings, and third person narrative, as well as the stunning black and white illustration work of Simmonds.

In sumptuous hard cover, this is a collector’s delight and will be adored by young and old alike.

In the Lamplight, by Dianne Wolfer, illustrated by Brian Simmonds
Fremantle Press, 2018
ISBN 9781925591224

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris

Deep in the forest where sundrops spill
a bird sends seeds to the floor.

Over the seas, a bird drops a seeds which sprouts and, slowly, grows into a tree. When that tree is felled it becomes, in turn, part of a ship bearing convicts, then a frame for a weaving loom and, eventually, part of a lean-to. When the lean-to is abandoned the wood lies dormant until a crafter finds it and from it carves a wooden bird.

This beautiful story shows the journey of one tree, with the use of the bird at the beginning and end drawing an elegant circle which even young children will connect with. The repurposing of the wood from convict bunk to loom to building material to carving material connects history with the growing contemporary re-awakening of the importance of recycling and upcycling.

The poetic text is simple, and a delight to read aloud, and Harris’s illustrations make stunning use of light and perspective.

A delight for a home library as well as a useful classroom read.

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris
Black Dog, 2018
ISBN 9781925381122

The Poesy Ring: A Love Story, by Bob Graham

County Kerry,
west coast of Ireland, 1830.
Bitter tears were shed and a ring was thrown.

In an act of sorrow, a woman throws away a poesy ring. Inscribed with the words ‘Love never dies’, the ring lies first in a field then,  under an oak tree which grows nearby, before being caught in the hoof a deer which stops to eat acorns. From there the ring begins a journey which sees it eventually at the bottom of the ocean where it is swallowed by a fish and so, almost two centuries after it was thrown, finally finds its way back to human hands. Purchased by young lovers from a gold trader, the ring is finally placed once again on a young woman’s finger.

There is so much to ponder on and love in this book. The fascinating journey of the ring, the idea of love travelling and being passed on, the mystery of the woman who threw the ring, and her story, will leave readers pondering and even discussing for quite some time. The illustrations, with Bob Graham’s special blend of realism and whimsy, will also delight and inspire further examination.

A treasure of a book about a unique treasure.

The Poesy Ring, by Bob Graham
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781406378276

Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting

‘Don’t worry,’ says Grandad.
‘The sandcastle is still here;
you just can’t see it.’

Rae wants to build a magnificent sandacste, and when Grandad offers to help they do indeed build a very fine castle. But when the tide starts to come in, Rae watches as, bit by bit, the magnificent castle is washed away. Grandad, though, explains that the castle isn’t really gone, because everything that made it is still there.

Sandcastle is a beuatiful exploration of the ebb and flow of life, and of the gentle bond between grandparent and grandchild. Whil Grandad’s wisdom is deep, so too is Rae’s willingness to accept that wisdom.

The deceptively simple illustrations use sandy tones as well as blues with embellishments of red and yellow. The focus is squarely on Rae and Grandad as they enjoy time together, seemingly the only two at the beach – with the exception of a gorgeous orange crab. Another lovely touch is the absence of any gendered pronouns for Rae, something which is difficult to achieve but doesn’t seem forced in this text.

A beautiful book.

Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760634438