Molly & Mae, by Danny Parker & Freya Blackwood

Molly thought Mae was silly and told her so.
Mae was tired of being bossed around.
Molly was angry and loud and rude.
Molly turned her back.

Molly and Mae are friends, embarking on a train journey. First they have a long wait for the train, but they play games, exchange secrets and eat together. Finally, they are on their way, and the train holds lots of adventures. But the journey grows long, and the girls quarrel. Not spekaing to each other, though, makes the journey tedious, and they build bridges to once again be best of friends.

Molly and Mae is a beautiful tale of friendship, with the highs and lows of a train journey being a wonderful metaphor for the journey a friendship can take, with togetherness, tension, obstacles and healing. The text is fittingly sparse, so that readers can fill the spaces for themselves, and also enjoy the sumptuous illustrations which capture both the emotions of the girls and the variety of life and passengers on the train. The girls are more brightly coloured than their fellow passengers, a touch which adds focus.

A beautiful picture book, to be treasured by all ages.

Molly and Mae, by Danny Parker & Freya Blackwood
Little Hare, 2016
ISBN 9781742975276

The Silent Owl, by Sam McPhillips (ill) & Clemency Pearce

In the great, old hollow oak,
Lived an owl, who never spoke.

Owl doesn’t speak, doesn’t sing and doesn’t even hoot. All the other animals are worried. They would like a sign that Owl is all right. Finally, Owl does make a noise – by playing a series of musical instruments.

The Silent Owl is a gorgeous rhyming picture book, illustrated with paper collage and water colour backgrounds. The humour of the story, coupled with the big eyed characters will appeal to young readers, and the deceptive simplicity of the collage will entice young artists to experiment with collage themselves.

Lots of fun with early childhood readers.

The Silent Owl, by Sam McPhillips (ill) & Clemency Pearce
Big Sky Publishing, 2016
ISBN 9781925520019

The Fabulous Friend Machine by Nick Bland

Popcorn was, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at FIDDLESTICKS FARM.

She insisted on saying hello to every animal every morning.

Popcorn was, quite simply, the friendliest chicken at FIDDLESTICKS FARM.

She insisted on saying hello to every animal every morning.

Popcorn was friendly and entertained all the farmyard animals, brightening their days with story. Life in the farmyard was richer for her sunny nature and helpfulness. But then she discovers a strange object in the corner of the barn: the Fabulous Friend Machine. Gradually all of Popcorn’s time and energy is sucked into communing with the friends she has found inside the object. She has so many friends that she hardly notices that the friends around her are missing her. Illustrations use a limited but rich palette of reds greens and blacks.

The Fabulous Friend Machine’ is a cautionary tale about the dangers of contemporary communication channels. Virtual ‘friends’ may not always be who they seem. Real friends are sidelined by the Fabulous Friend Machine until it seems that disaster must ensue. Recommended for early primary readers and teachers/family wanting to open conversations about cyber-safety with young users of technology.

The Fabulous Friend Machine, Nick Bland Scholastic 2016 ISBN: 9781760277659

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

My Dog Dash by Nicki Greenberg

My dog Dash wasn’t very well-behaved at puppy school.

I think the teacher could have been a bit more patient with him.

My dog Dash wasn’t very well-behaved at puppy school.

I think the teacher could have been a bit more patient with him.

Dash’s story is told by a young girl who loves him. Dash attends puppy school, but although he does many of the same things as other puppies, the teacher is unimpressed. He’s great at ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ but is still working on other tasks. Walking Dash is slow because he’s interested in everything he sees. But he is her pet, and she loves him, despite what others might see as his failures or peccadillos. Illustrations are full page and provide plenty of humour.

Dash is an unusual dog, but there are plenty of those in the world. This young girl is caring and responsible with her pet, despite the reactions of others. ‘My Dog Dash’ is hilarious and will be fun to share with one reader or many. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

My Dog Dash, Nicki Greenberg Allen & Unwin 2016 ISBN: 9781760110673

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Bird and Bear and the Special Day Ann James

Bird wakes up to a beautiful day.

‘Happy Birdday, Bird,’ she says to herself.

Bird flies off to share it with her best friend, Bear.

Bird wakes up to a beautiful day.

‘Happy Birdday, Bird,’ she says to herself.

Bird flies off to share it with her best friend, Bear.

Bird and Bear are the best of friends so it’s no surprise they want to spend a special day together. They venture out, complete with provisions, open to whatever they might encounter. They look for big things and small things, short things and more. They even stop for a picnic. But there’s one element of their special day that Bird is waiting for and Bear saves for last. Illustrations are outlined in black pencil and filled with watercolour.

Bird and Bear are back in a new adventure, and this time it’s Bird’s birthday. They set out on an adventure to celebrate. Their visit to the park includes many diversions as they explore many opposites: big and small, low and high. Their final stop is atop the hill for Bear’s special birthday surprise. There is a Pooh Bear and Eeyore feel to their meanderings and their conversation, which is delightful. This is a wonderful celebration of not just birthdays but of the joys of discovery and sharing of everyday wonderfuls. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Bird and Bear and the Special Day, Ann James

The Five Mile Press 2016 ISBN: 9781760402808

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Pig the Elf, by Aaron Blabey

How he loved Christmas!
He’d chortle with glee –
‘The presents! The presents!
For ME! ME! ME! ME!

It’s Christmas Eve and Pig and his patient friend Trevor are excited. But while Trevor has written to Santa asking just for ‘something nice’, Pig has written an almost-endless list of demands. And, while Trevor knows that Santa will come when he’s asleep, Pig is determined to stay up to see Santa. The waiting is hard, but harder still is his realisation that Santa hasn’t brought him everything on his list. He wants to make Santa pay – with hilarious results.

Pig the Elf is the latest in this much-loved picture book series featuring Pig the selfish (yet somehow lovable) Pug and his long-suffering friend Trevor the dachsund. In bouncy, humorous verse complemented with big generous acrylic illustrations, this is sure to be a favourite this Christmas season.
Pig the Elf, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760154271

Home in the Rain, by Bob Graham

“My little sister.
What will her name be, Mummy?”
“Well, she’s not quite with us yet,” said Mum.
“But when will she have a name, Mummy?” said Francie.
“Soon,” said Mum. “Sometime soon.”

It’s a very wet day, and Francie and Mum have a long drive home from Grandma’s house. Stuck in the rain, Francie has lots of time to wonder what her new baby sister will be called and, just before the weather clears, Mum finds a name that seems just right.

Home In The Rain is a beautiful slice of life book from master picture book creator Bob Graham. While the trip is long and the rain is heavy, nothing world-changing occurs – but this makes what does happen – the choosing of a baby’s name – monumental.

Bob Graham’s portrayal of both the heavy rain storm and its effect on the traffic, people and animals, as well as of the little world inside Francie and Mum’s car, is divine. WHile this is chiefly a story about the latter, the detail of the former adds interest and humour and highlights the way life goes on around the little family. Younger children will enjoy the detail and older children will spot layers of meaning, and enjoy the use of light, colour and persepctive. Even the name chosen for the baby, Grace, is connected to the rain through a John Updike quote on the dedication page.

Beautiful.

Home In The Rain, by Bob Graham
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781406368239

Sleigh Ride, L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
Ring-ting-tingling too,
Come on, it’s lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you.

This popular Christmas song filled with mentions of snow and sleighs seems an unlikely choice for an Australian picture book, but illustrator Matt Shanks has given it a very Australian makeover. The words are unchanged, but the sleigh bells belong to an icecream van, and the sleigh is a trailer towed behind it. The ice and snow come from an esky. The pages are also populated with a cast of Australian animals – koalas, wombats, numbats, galahs, echidnas and more are picked up in the icecream van sleigh and end up at the beach where the van’s driver is revealed as a penguin.

Youngsters will love seeing the song interpreted in a beach and outback setting, and there is a bonus CD featuring the song performed by Hum,an Nature and Jessica Mauboy, so they will be able to sing along.

Christmas fun.

Sleigh Ride, by L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760276928

The Little Giraffe Who Lost Her Spots, by Jedda Robaard

Little Giraffe loved all things spotty…
but nothing could replace her missing spots.

When Little Giraffe wakes up, she is panicked to realise she has lost her spots. She looks everywhere for them, and even tries to find ways to replace them, unsuccessfully. It is only when she starts to cry and pulls a handkerchief from her pocket that she realises she hasn’t lost her spots after all – they are just covered by her yellow pyjamas.

The Little Giraffe Who Lost Her Spots is a gently humorous board book offering for littlies. Young readers will enjoy the apparent mystery, and the outcome, as well as the flaps to lift and the watercolour and pencil illustrations, featuring a whimsical giraffe and her companion, a grey animal which may be a tiny piglet.

A sturdy, delightful board book.

The Little Giraffe Who Lost Her Spots, by Jedda Robaard
Five Mile Press, 2016
ISBN 9781760400392

Welcome to Country, by Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy

Welcome to the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People. We are part of this land and the lands is part of us. This is where we come from.

This beautiful, important book is a joy to read, to view and to hear. Many children will have heard a traditional Welcome to Country at a school or community event, but having Aunty Joy’s welcome on behalf of the Wurundjeri People presented in picture book form will allow the welcome to be brought into classrooms and homes in an accessible form.

The use of English as well as a language, the explanations of the significance of the parts of the greeting and the invitation to pay respect and traverse the lands draw the reader into the text, and the rich acrylic illustrations from Lisa Kennedy bring the land and its traditional inhabitants – human, animal and spiritual – to life, again drawing the reader in with its beauty.

A wonderful asset which should be in every school ad household.

Welcome to Country, by Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781922244871