Toffee Apple by Peter Combe, ill Danielle McDonald

Toffee Apple, nice and licky,
One for Judy, one for Nicky.
Crunchy munchy,
Very sticky
Don’t forget to clean your teeth!

‘Toffee Apple’ is a collection of three much-loved songs from performer Peter Combe. Here they are illustrated with bright colours, with words in larger fonts and a variety of colours. Animals dance as they eat their toffee apples, read the daily newspaper and imagine what it would be like to have six flies land on your jelly. This sturdy paperback comes with a cd of the three songs so everyone can sing along!

There is so much colour and movement in every page of ‘Toffee Apple’ that it is virtually impossible to sit still while it is read. And that’s probably the plan. Peter Combe’s songs are full of wonderful silliness designed to get children dancing about. The colourful pages and all-over-the-place text contribute to the fun. Sing along! Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Toffee Apple, Peter Combe ill Danielle McDonald
Scholastic Australia 2017 ISBN:
9781760275082

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

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo! by Mark Carthew ill Anil Tortop

When Jess and Jack opened the gates to the Zoo,
it was strangely deserted. Nobody said BOO!
‘Where’s the new roo?’ said Jess, looking round.
‘It’s never this quiet. I can’t hear a sound.’

When Jess and Jack arrive at the zoo to begin their day and to check on their newest animal, they find everything suspiciously quiet. None of the animals are to be seen, but it’s clear where they’ve been. There are open cages, and animal scats and tracks everywhere. They follow the tracks, the scats, the feathers and down. They know their animals love to roam free, but are keen to get them back before night falls. Just when Jess is beginning to worry, she finds Jack and the animals too. Illustrations are full of fun and humour as the animals conduct their big Hullabaloo.

‘The Great Zoo Hullabaloo’ tells a story of disappearing zoo animals, the tracks they leave behind and the reason they have vanished, all in rhyme. Young readers are invited to speculate about where the animals might be, then to join in when they are discovered. Both zookeepers are relieved to find their animals, and to join in the shenanigans. There are plenty of animals to identify, and rhythms to replicate. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo!, Mark Carthew ill Anil Tortop New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925059786

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

Rose’s Red Boots by Maura Finn, ill Karen Erasmus

When Rose and Banjo started out the day was bright and new,
The clouds small puffs of fairy floss against the dazzling blue.
A gentle breeze brushed though the trees and made their branches sway.
And …

Rose and her puppy Banjo are ready for a day flying Rose’s kite. They set off from the house. Along the way there are streams to ford, hills to climb, mud to jump in. At the top, Rose flies her kite until the weather changes and they run away home. The little red boots of the title offer a regular refrain. Illustrations are loose black pencil outline with soft watercolours, a mix of full colour pages and vignettes set in white. This almost square hardback has paw- and boot-prints on front and back, with the title in the red of Rose’s boots. Endpapers show Rose and Banjo and kite-fun.

Rose and her puppy have a plan for the day but as so often is the case with small people, the journey is as important as the destination and the activity planned. The refrain will soon have young listeners joining in. Rose’s Red Boots is a celebration of free play and discovery, and the illustrations are delightful. A spread with Rose and Banjo huddled under a tree when lightning strikes offers the opportunity to discuss safe storm havens. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Rose’s Red Boots, Maura Finn ill Karen Erasmus New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9780957988446

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

My Brother is a Beast by Damon Young, ill Peter Carnavas

Some brothers fish in cloaks,
casting off on drizzly docks.
Some brothers climb in kilts,
hiking round the highland rocks.

The narrator of ‘My Brother is a Beast’ is a younger sister. The reader doesn’t meet her until they also meet the ‘beast’ of a brother. First we meet other brothers who do other things. This narrator idolises the brother who spends time with her, does crazy things. She’s not completely sure about his slime monster concoction, but she loves playing with him. Illustrations are both real and fantastical, and text curls around images. End-papers show the beast of a brother at play.

My Brother is a Beast’, a new title in a picture book series about family members. Previous titles include ‘My Sister is a Superhero’ and ‘My Nanna is a Ninja’. ‘My Brother is a Beast’ celebrates the wonderfulness of brothers They might be weird, they might be wild, but they are for loving and for playing with. Young readers may recognise characteristics of their own brothers, or be encouraged to articulate what it is that makes their own brothers wonderful. They may also be encouraged to invent a new brother who is also a beast. Recommended for early-schoolers.

My Brother is a Beast, Damon Young ill Peter Carnavas
UQP 2017 ISBN: 9781702259579

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

I Love You by Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun

Ms Giraffe is Little Badger’s teacher.
She is very kind and very clever.
One day, Ms Giraffe writes some new words on the whiteboard.
Wo ai ni
Ti amo
Je táime
Ich Liebe dich
Te quiero

Little Badger loves school and when her teacher teaches them how to say ‘I love you!’ in multiple languages, she’s very happy to practice. She says ‘I love you!’ all the way home. At home, she continues, practising, practising in different languages all the way through dinner, her bath and to bedtime. Her parents are caught up in her enthusiasm and reaffirm their love in different languages. All characters are represented as animals. Illustrations are stylised, pencil and paint. End-papers reflect some of the elements Little Badger loves.
I Love You’ was originally published in China and the first alt-language offering in this new edition is appropriately in Chinese (both phonetic and in script). Ms Giraffe introduces the idea that all languages express the same emotion, but with different sounds. Little Badger applies her new knowledge generously. This is a lovely book, with friendly illustrations and will be enjoyed at home, in kindergartens and in schools to introduce different languages. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

I Love You, Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059762

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

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark! by Katrina Germein ill Janine Dawson

Aussie Rules is awesome.
I always arrive on time.
Out on the boundary Bailey warms up.
He takes a bounce and boots the ball; a banana kick bends to me.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!’ begins with the arrival of players at an AFL football game, continues through the game and ends as the game does. Told from the perspective of one of the players, it is also an alphabet book. As the game progresses, so does the alphabet. Every player has a chance to shine, whether it’s taking marks, making a pass, or kicking a goal. The rain may come down, the grass may turn into mud, but nothing can dampen the enthusiasm of these ball players. Illustrations depict a dull and rainy day with umbrella-wielding parents cheering from the sidelines.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!’ celebrates junior AFL football, and all the things it should be about – having fun, having a go, learning teamwork and sliding in the mud. The alphabetic sentences read easily and are full of football-ness. The illustrations are full of extra elements for the reader to find, from the mud following the flight of the ball on the ‘f’ page to the child eating under the watchful eye of a magpie on the ‘v’ page. A broad range of cultures and body types are represented, as is the child who lives, eats, breathes and sleeps football. Recommended for early-schoolers.

Great Goal! Marvellous Mark!, Katrina Germein ill Janine Dawson
Ford Street Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272673

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

Glitch by Michelle Worthington ill Andrew Plant

Glitch was a trembly, twittery, twitchy kind of bug,
who built amazing creations from the treasures he found on the rubbish heap where he lived.
June was much more calm, which made her a brilliant billycart driver and his most trusted friend.

Glitch and his friend June enter the Billycart race every year. The race is held at the tip where they live and their billycarts made from bits they find there. Glitch is great at building billycarts but not so great at being the navigator when June drives in the race. Each year something goes wrong and they – the team with the best billycart – miss out. This year, when they have a crash in the lead up to the race, June hatches a plan. It depends on trembly, twittery, twitchy Glitch doing something he’s never done before. Illustrations include colourful and friendly-looking bugs of all hues. The tip becomes a treasure trove and a racetrack.

‘Glitch’ celebrates the friendship between two bugs. Together they make a great team – or they would, if Glitch could get over his twitchiness and focus on race day. This year, with the best billycart ever, things are looking good until a prematch accident turns everything upside down. Glitch has to overcome his twitches – and they’re bigger than ever – if the pair are to complete a race. Themes include friendship and bravery. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Glitch, Michelle Worthington ill Andrew Plant
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272710

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

Beowulf The Brave retold by Oakley Graham, ill Emi Ordás

A long time ago, before you were born,
Lived a king with a golden drinking horn.
He ruled a cold land, that was peaceful and quiet,
Until a monster called Grendel started a riot!

Grendel hated laughter and one day, at a feast,
The king and his men were attacked by the beast!
The people were terrified, the hall stood silent,
What hero could stop the monstrous tyrant?

Beowulf The Brave’ begins with a father reading a bedtime story to his son. While Dad reads, the son visualises himself as the brave Beowulf, vanquishes Grendel, then his mother, then finally a dragon, before slipping into sleep. Illustrations begin with the bedtime ritual, continue with the action ‘centre stage’ until finally returning to the bedroom as the story ends. Illustrations are digital and fantastical, as any telling of Beowulf must be.

Beowulf, a story poem known for its complexity and drama, was over 3000 lines long. It is an oral tale, not written down for many years after its creation. This version introduces Beowulf and his adventures, in a much briefer form, for a young audience that may baulk at the full story. As the story is told, the boy casts himself as Beowulf. In his imagining, he is the brave hero. ‘Beowulf The Brave’ introduces not just this epic tale, but also the tradition of storytelling that predated written language and books. Recommended for early- to mid-schoolers.

Beowulf The Brave, retold Oakley Graham ill Emi Ordás
Big Sky Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925275933

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

Baby Band by Diane Jackson Hill ill Giuseppe Poli

The apartment block loomed cold and quiet.
The same people had lived there a long time.
They did not know each other and they
never spoke – not even to say hello.

No one speaks to anyone in the apartment block. They go about their business separately and in as quietly as possible. Then a baby arrives in the apartment block. The baby is not quiet, not a bit, no matter how his mother tries. He cries. And cries. Until one day he finds the pots and pans. The crying stops and the music begins. One by one, the other occupants of the floor join in. Together they create music. And a community. Illustrations are loose outline filled with colour, often set in white. End papers offer music in the park – two versions.

The apartment block is a collection of separate people who seldom interact – until the baby arrives. The solution to the baby’s crying is music and accidentally at first, then intentionally, it brings the individuals of the block together as a community. Young readers will love the notion that music can be made with whatever is at hand – or foot. Kinder and early years teachers can use this story to introduce music to their classrooms. Young readers will also enjoy looking at the difference between the front end-papers and the rear end-papers, and finding all the apartment-dwellers. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Baby Band, Diane Jackson Hill ill Giuseppe Poli
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059779

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

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles by Alice Rex ill Angela Perrini

Ava sat at her desk, gazing at the board.
‘Ava,’ said Mrs Cook. ‘Where are your glasses today?’
Ava looked down at her schoolbag.
She hated her glasses.

Ava hates her glasses, and sometimes chooses not to wear them, even when wearing them would help her to read. Ava’s teacher sympathises and rather than tell her to put them on, she opens a book of fairy tales. One by one, Mrs Cook suggests that all of the main characters in her favourite stories, could have avoided their troubles by wearing their glasses. By the end, Ava is adding to the stories, and seeing her own life more clearly. Glasses have become the hero of every story. Illustrations are black pencil and block colour set in pastel backgrounds.

Ava would rather not see than use her glasses, when they mark her out as different. Her teacher uses fairy tales to suggest that wearing her glasses will make her the hero of her own story. In a classroom, Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles offers the opportunity to have students reframe fairy tales for different outcomes. At home, it could form the basis of conversations about the strengths in difference. And young spectacle-wearers may enjoy seeing themselves reflected in story.

Recommended for early-schoolers.

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles, Alice Rex ill Angela Perrini
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059984

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