Eric the Postie, by Matt Shanks

The post office didn’t hire echidnas
(or any other animals for that matter).
But this wouldn’t stop Eric.
he would do anything to fulfil his dream!

Eric knows he could be the best postman ever – he can stay dry, avoid dogs, lick the envelopes, and even help open letters. If only he had some mail to deliver. But, no matter the obstale, Eric is determined to follow his dreams.

Eric the Postie is a delightful picture book about following dreams, even if they are big and you are little. Young readers will enjoy both the silliness of an echidna wanting to be a postman, and the rightness of the solution.  the illustrations, in watercolour with  white backgrounds, are gorgeous in their apparent simplicity.

Suitable for at home reading or sharing at school, Eric the Postie will also appeal to adult readers.

Eric the Postie, by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811931

 

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise by Mark Carthew ill Simon Prescott

On the first of December, Marigold Mouse
found a rather large box at the front of her house.
Ms Marigold Mouse
Busselton Road
Mouseville
FRAGILE
*Do not bend*
Sender: Mrs M. Mouse (Snr)

It’s Christmas and Marigold finds a box on her doorstep. She opens it to find a letter from her mother and a box full of tree and Christmas decorations, a memory in each one. From her window she spies her neighbour Marvin. His aloneness and loneliness radiates through the window, and she invites him to join her. Together they decorate the tree, share Christmas memories and celebrate the spirit of Christmas. Illustrations show a snowy Christmas, teddy bear-like mice and gingerbread-like houses.

Marvin and Marigold live side-by-side. When her parcel arrives, Marigold is happy to invite her friend to share the decorating of the Christmas tree. He brings a snack to share. Gentle rhyme details the friendship and the sharing of Marigold’s family tree tradition. Inherent in the rhyme and the illustration is the reminder that Christmas is about sharing with those around you. The final image shows the friends sitting by the fire, with both stockings hung together as they share a meal and more chat. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise, Mark Carthew ill Simon Prescott
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925259991

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

Ollie’s Treasure by Lynn Jenkins & Kirrili Lonergan

Ollie loved treasure hunts.
His grandma knew he loved them, so she sent him a treasure map.
In a letter.

Ollie loves treasure hunts and he’s very excited when his grandma, Gran, sends him a treasure map. Ollie happily speculates on what the treasure might be. Each clue has him moving closer to the ‘happiness always’ treasure that Gran promises. He follows her instructions to the letter, relishing each activity. Finally he reaches the treasure. It is nothing he had imagined. It takes Gran’s final instruction to help him understand and appreciate this treasure. Illustrations are loose black line and goache, mostly set in white space.

Ollie’s Treasure’ has a clear purpose: to model mindfulness in young children. Ollie clearly has a strong relationship with Gran, but he also clearly has very strong ideas about what a treasure is. Gran uses his love of treasure hunts to point out the wonder in the world he inhabits. Although Ollie enjoys the task, it is the potential reward that drives him forward. His disappointment when the treasure is revealed is ameliorated by Gran’s ‘unpacking’ of the real, and lifelong, treasure he can enjoy. Together they share happiness. Illustrations clearly depict Ollie’s emotions. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Ollie’s Treasure, Lynn Jenkins & Kirrili Lonergan
EK Books 2017
ISBN: 9781925335422

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

My Dog Socks by Robyn Osborne ill Sadami Konchi

Most people think Socks is an ordinary dog,
but when we hike through the forest,
he turns into a … black bear!
Scraping at tree trunks and sniffing the air,
clawing and gnawing, scrabbling and dabbling.

A boy introduces the reader to his dog, explaining that he might look like an ordinary dog, but he is in fact much more than that. He then offers examples of his dog transforming in different situations/environments, rhythmically detailing his actions. Finally, the boy shares the most transformative dog trait of all. Illustrations in pencil and watercolour fill each opening, each scene. Look out for the shadows.

‘My Dog Socks’ is a story of the love between a boy and his dog. His dog is by turns brave, intrepid, greedy and mischievous – mirroring his own behaviour. While different behaviours are attributed to many other animals, they also showcase the many facets of dog (and child?) behaviour. Animal shadows give the young reader the opportunity to guess what animal Socks has become. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers and perhaps also for families considering a pet of the canine variety.

My Dog Socks, Robyn Osborne ill Sadami Konchi
Ford Street Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272826

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

Eddie Frogbert by Sue deGennaro

Eddie Frogbert wasn’t like other frogs.
While all the other frogs would hippity hop around the pond, Eddie preferred to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

Eddie Frogbert keeps himself busy with plenty of different activities, like science and knitting. Everything except leaping in the pond. But, when every-hippity hopping friend he knows enters a diving competition, he wonders whether he might be a bit interested. Quietly, gently, he decides to work up to maybe, possibly, joining in. Perhaps he can join the fun. But he will do it in his own way.

Illustrations use a limited palette of blues and greens (and tiny red accents) set in blue-grey pages. Backgrounds are stripped back and include collage and drawn textures. The embossed front page with Eddie atop the diving board tower shows his apprehension and his bravery. Look out for the snail.
Eddie Frogbert is a quietly determined frog. While he enjoys his normal activity, he also wants to overcome his apprehensions about leaping and join his friends in the pond. So rather than let his fear overwhelm him, he chooses quiet moments to test himself. When his ultimate goal is beyond his reach, he stages his training to build up to it.

Told with gentle humour, Eddie’s story is one of persistence and determination, and will resonate with many young people (and not so young?) For a story-within-a-story follow the journey of the snail which begins in the front endpapers and continues throughout. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

Eddie Frogbert, Sue deGennaro
Scholastic Press 2017
ISBN: 9781760276782

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

Can You Find Me? by Gordon Winch & Patrick Shirvington

I am a platypus.
I live in the muddy water and on the grassy bank.
I look like the muddy water and the grassy bank.
That is why I am hard to see.
Can you find me?

Can You Find Me?’ features a collection of Australian animals (large and small) living, hiding, in their particular environment. Each double page spread draws their home, and suggests why they might be hard to find. The final line on each spread then asks ‘Can you find me?’ Endpapers show ‘specimens’ from a range of Australian native plants set in white paper. Illustrations are watercolour and realistic in style.

Camouflage is a great tool for survival, particularly if an animal is not the fastest, biggest or top of their food chain. Each of these Australian animals from the echidna on the cover to the leaf moth and stick insect has adapted to be able to hide in plain sight. The invitation is explicit in the title and young readers will enjoy finding each animal. Text spells out why they are hard to see: ‘I live in the … I look like the …’ and then asks the reader to search the image. An introduction to camouflage and Australian creatures large and small. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

Can You Find Me, Gordon Winch & Patrick Shirvington
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059793

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

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines by Prue & Kerry Mason ill Tom Jellett

If only it took a week to travel between Australian and England instead of three months. If only the ship voyage wasn’t so dangerous. If we didn’t live at the end of the world in this outpost – this Colony of Australia. It’s not I who says this but my fellow Sydneysiders who wish for one last sight of England before they die. As their doctor, I can diagnose illnesses perform surgery and prescribe medication but what can I do for those who are homesick?
There’s just one thing: I can invent a flying ship. And I’ve done it!
Or at least, I’ve drawn the pictures. All that’s left to do is build it and watch it fly.

The dream of flying has motivated many thinkers and inventors across many years. In the Age of Machines, eyes turned to the sky for a way to travel through the air. There were many naysayers who considered flight a ridiculous and foolish notion, but the dreamers persisted, trying and failing, trying again. Little by little, they overcame the barriers to flight. Meet some of the Australian pioneers and the thinking that contributed to the advent of aviation. ‘Did you know?’ boxes offer some of the science of flying. Illustrations, photos and fact boxes intersperse the biographical text.

Successful flight was not an overnight achievement, nor the achievement of a single individual. Around the world, across many years, many thinkers and doers were moving closer and closer, learning from the successes and failures of others. ‘Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines’ showcases Australians who contributed along the way. Readers will discover the history, the people, the science and the politics of flying, told from a particularly Australian viewpoint. Recommended for budding pilots, engineers, historians and mid-primary readers.

Amazing Australians in their Flying Machines, Prue and Kerry Mason ill Tom Jellett
Walker Books Australia 2017
ISBN: 9781922244635

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

I Want to be in a Book, by Narelle Oliver

In his imaginary book . . .
Cecil could be anyone
in any story.

Since Cecil was drawn, he’s been waiting to be in a book. He’s spent most of his life on a pin up board, where he’s seen other creatures come and go, pained, adorned and surrounded by words in shiny new books. Now, he’s sick of waiting. Determined to be in a book, he rips himself from the pin up board, but soon finds himself getting more adventure than he planned, in the wrong book. Luckily, after he escapes, he realises there is a scrapbook full of ideas waiting for him.

I Want to Be in a Book is a delightful meta-fiction offering from the late Narelle Oliver. With a mix of illustration techniques including Cecil sketched on lined paper, collage, photography and digital techniques and the text ‘typed’ on note paper, the story is visually pleasing with lots to see and find.

Cecil is a delight and a wonderful reminder of Oliver’s talents.

I Want to Be in a Book, by Narelle Oliver
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811634

The Very Sleepy Bear, by Nick Bland

Winter had come early and Bear was running late.
He was feeling very sleepy, it was time to hibernate.
He hurried down the mountain, past the icy rocks,
and never even noticed a rather sneaky Fox.

The Bear is back – and this time he’s really sleepy. Winter is here, and he needs to hibernate, but a sneaky fox thinks Bear needs a new bigger cave. First he offers a train tunnel, then a bat cave, and lastly an ocean-side cave. When bear decides he’s had enough and wants to go back to his own snug cave, he finds Fox and his friends have moved in.

The Very Sleepy Bear features the bear who youngsters may well know from The Very cranky bear and other offerings. Told in humorous rhyme and featuring the big brown bear and assorted other characters in gently humorous acrylics , the book will nightstand repeated rereading – which is just as well, because it will be requested over and over.

The Very Sleepy Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743812549

The Cat Wants Cuddles, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford

Kevin doesn’t want a pat.
He doesn’t want a tickle.
And he definitely does
NOT want a cuddle.

When Kevin the cat’s nap is disturbed by his owner, wanting to give him some attention, he is not impressed. His owner wants to pat him, tickle him and even cuddle him. But Kevin is not all impressed. He just wants some space. Until he sees the dog getting attention instead. Now he thinks he might quite like some cuddles. For a while.

The Cat Wants Cuddles is a humorous picture book which cat owners will find especially relatable. Kevin seems to think the world revolves around him – and is really contrary. Yet somehow, he is also likable.

The text includes no narration or tags. The owner’s words are presented in bold in the opening pages, with Kevin’s responses (not understood by the human, of course) are in thought bubbles. For the majority of the book, the only text is these thought bubbles. The illustrations focus squarely on Kevin’s expressions and actions, with the human only shown as shoes, hands and a lap. Dog (who remains unnamed, seemingly because Kevin doesn’t dignify him with one) is shown on several spreads, looking slightly confused and long-suffering.

Kids will love the humour of this one.

The Cat Wants Cuddles, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811412