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

The Great Rabbit Chase,by Freya Blackwood

Mum went out to buy a new pair of gumboots,
but came home with a rabbit.
I named him Gumboots.

Gumboots the rabbit is a much loved pet, but the thing he does best is escape. Today, he chooses the moment Mum is in the shower and the narrator’s friend Norman is at the door to escape. Soon Mum (wrapped in a towel) and the two children are in pursuit. As they move through the town,more people join in the chase – a neighbour with a plate of cakes,a man with shiny black shoes, even a mum with a crying baby. Finally, Gumboots leads them to a park, where everyone feels more rested, and Gumboots has a surprise.

The Great Rabbit Chase is an adorable picture book about happiness, slowing down -and rabbits. Blackwood, best known for her gentle, life-filled watercolour illustrations, shows that her creative talents extend to writing with a similar touch of gentle whimsy.


The Great Rabbit Chase, by Freya Blackwood
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811641

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

A Thousand Hugs from Daddy, by Anna Pignataro

In your arms it’s safe and snug,
you always give a thousand hugs.
And I’m as happy as can be-
one hug is not enough for me!

Starting at home and then out into the day a father and child go through the day playing, resting and even overcoming obstacles in the ford of bad weather – with hugs every step of the way.

While the text could be any pairing of adult and child, the illustrations, coupled with the use of ‘Daddy’ in the title, show this pair as a father and infant polar bear. Home is an igloo, and most of the book takes place outside against snowy backgrounds. The palette of mainly whites and greys is gently brightened with soft yellows of light and muted blue skies and snowflakes. This visual gentleness echoes the lyrical rhyming text, making it suitable for cuddle time or bed time.

A beautiful, tender celebration of father-child bonds.

A Thousand Hugs from Daddy, by AnnaPignataro
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781760276973

Feathers, by Phil Cummings & Phil Lesnie

The boy spied a falling feather
and drifting.
He climbed to the top of a craggy mountain and caught it.
It was soft and smooth on his grimy chief.

When the sun rises on a crisp,cloudy day a sandpiper knows it is time to leave, so it takes flight, heading for warmer climes. First though, on its long journey, it flies over scenes of destruction and hardship – an earthquake, a war zone and a flood. In each place,a feather falls to earth, offering hope to a child below. Finally, as the bird reaches safety near Mia’s house, it drops one last feather. When Mia catches it, she feels lucky. The reader, who has seen the hardships faced by the other children, is particularly aware of how lucky Mia is.

Feathers is a beautiful picture book, on the surface tracing the story of a bird’s migration but, at the same time, exploring the differing fortunes of children across the globe. The theme of hope, symbolised by the bird’s feathers, is demonstrated with exquisite simplicity in both the text and in the outstanding watercolour,pencil and gouache illustrations.

Just beautiful.

Feathers , by PhilCummings andPhilLesnie
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781760157357

First Day by Margaret Wild, ill Kim Gamble

Before school
Salma gets out the ham, salad and cheese. She’s making her own lunch because her mum is busy with the three little ones. Salma makes the biggest, fattest sandwich ever.
Khalil puts on his shiny new shoes. He is excellent at tying his shoelaces. He can do double bows, even triple bows! He likes tying shoelaces more than anything in the world.

It’s the first day of school for 6 children and the first day back at school for one of the mums. Each child and family is introduced separately, with telling details about their personality and home structure. They travel to school and meet their teacher and the pages are crammed depictions of this first school day and the responses of individuals to the class and to each other. Alex’s dog visits and she has a brilliant idea. When their day is done, the children (and dog) all return home. Watercolour and pencil illustrations begin simply, then as the children move through their day, the images become a combination of group ‘shots’ and vignettes.

‘First Day’ was initially published in 1999, but loses none of its relevance in 2017. The children, from diverse homes, carry all the innocence, anticipation, trepidation and bravery that are displayed in any first day classroom. It’s a delight to see the classroom through the eyes of these young children and to remember that first days don’t ever stop. It’s Alex’s Mum’s first day back at ‘school’ and she carries many of the same emotions and fears as the children – a lovely thing for young children to understand. The illustrations invite empathy and model gentleness. Ideal for use at home and in the classroom. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.
First Day, Margaret Wild ill Kim Gamble Allen & Unwin 2017 ISBN: 9781760293918

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea, by Coral Vass & Gabriel Evans

The table was set, today was the day!
In a dainty pink dress danced Annabelle Mae,
with five little friends by the old willow tree,
for a perfectly posh pink afternoon tea!

Annabelle Mae is having a party – a posh afternoon tea, with her friends all dressed up an lots of sweat treats with tea cups and spoons. But next door, two boys – Darcy and Dean – are scheming to spoil the party. When they turn the sprinklers on it looks like everything might be ruined – but Annabelle Mae is not so easily upset. Instead, the posh tea party becomes a messy mud party.

With text in rhyme which scans well and is a pleasure to read aloud, a story with a lovely, non-preachy message, and joyful illustrations, A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea is a cute picture book for younger readers.

Good fun.

A Perfectly Posh Pink Afternoon Tea , by Coral Vass & Gabriel Evans
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811689

Reena’s Rainbow, by Dee White & Tracie Grimwood

In Reena’s world, sounds scattered and scrambled and made no sense.
But her clear blue eyes saw everything.
She saw the scruffy brown dog with drooping ears who hid in the shadows of the park.

Reena is hearing impaired. She loves to play with the other children who come to the park but sometimes she is left behind because she doesn’t hear what is happening. Dog is homeless. He loves to watch and to play, but he doesn’t have a person or place of his own. But when the two pair up, each findsa new sense of belonging.

Reena’s Rainbow is a touching story of friendship and belonging. The pairing of girl and dog is heart warming, and the message about acceptance is important. The gentle soft-toned illustrations are a perfect complement to the gentlessness of the story.


Reena’s Rainbow , by Dee White & Tracie Grimwood
EK Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925335491