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

My Meerkat Mum, by Ruth Paul

Up. Down. Dig. Play.
Meerkat Mum leads the way.

From first light till bedtime, Meerkat Mum supervises her children, guiding, scolding, feeding, and guarding. Even when they finally rest safe in their burrow, she will remain alert for danger all night.

My Meerkat Mum is a delightful rhyming text which captures the jerky, slightly humorous movements for which meerkats are known, in its stop/start rhythm. It withstands repeated readings (this reviewer road tested it with a ten month old who sat through four readings).

The illustrations, rendered digitally are equally delightful, with golden desrt hues and semi-realistic portrayals of the meerkats and other animals, though mum and one meerkat pup are adorned with flowers, and another has a favourite cuddly toy aardvark.

Suitable for babies through to early schoolers.

My Meerkat Mum, by Ruth Paul
Scholastic NZ, 207
ISBN 9781775434894

Pea Pod Lullaby, by Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King

I am the small green pea
you are the tender pod
hold me.

This gently lilting lullaby weaves its way across the pages of the book, with no more than three lines per spread, encouraging the text to be read and digested slowly. The text speaks of love and togetherness, and how people complete each other, in language that could apply as much to a parent and child as to any pairing of friends or partners.

The accompanying illustrations tell the tale of a mother, her two children and a dog, fleeing danger in a little boat, and drifting across the sea. They rescue a polar bear, also adrift, before finally finding land and a welcome. The illustrations, in watercolour with ink outlines, are tenderly whimsical, and slightly older readers will be able to make links to tales of refugees and displacement, as well as issues of global warming, among others, whilst babies and toddlers, and their parents, will be lulled by the gentle hues coupled with the tender words.

Simply beautiful.

Pea Pod Lullaby, by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760290085

Nanna’s Button Tin, by Dianne Wolfer & Heather Potter

We start sorting the buttons.
The button I’m looking for
needs to be just the right size,
just the right shape and just
the right colour.

Nanna’s button tin is a treasure trove of buttons of all sizes and shapes. But when Teddy needs a button, it has to be just the right one. As Teddy’s owner and her Nanna sort through the buttons, they also revisit the memories that the buttons contain – buttons from a baby cardigan, a button from a first meeting, and buttons from special outfits. Finally, though, just the right button is found, and Teddy has a new eye.

Nanna’s Button Tin is a divine picture book  offering. Many adults will share the joy of remembering a grandmother or mother’s button tin, and the bond between generations depicted is really special. Wolfer’s simple, heartwarming story is brought to life in beautiful pastel-toned gouache with ink outlines. The inclusion of details including a grandfather and baby sibling reading in the background highlight the warm family feel.

Suitable for all ages, this is just beautiful.

Nanna’s Button Tin, by Dianne Wolfer & Heather Potter
Walker Books, 2017
ISBN 9781922077677

Say Yes, by Jennifer Castles and Paul Seden

Mandy’s mum says there are two ladies.
There’s Mrs Jessie Street and Mrs Faith Bandler.
They are clever and they have strong, clear voices.
They are writing down new laws.
They are making speeches everywhere.

Two little girls are best friends and want to do everything together. But one girl – Mandy – isn’t allowed to go the pool, because the law stops her. She isn’t allowed to attend the same school, because the law says she has to go to a different school. And, when they are given money to go to the cinema, they aren’t allowed to sit together, because the law says they must sit in different places.

Say Yes tells the story of th e 1967 Referendum, through the eyes of a young white Australian watching the impact the unfair laws have on her friend, Mandy. Mandy and the narrator hear about the work of Jessie Street and Faith Bandler and are excited when the ‘Yes’ vote wins, making way for positive changes.

A wonderful means of explaining both the referendum process and the unfair and difficult rules which Aboriginal people were subject to until 1967 for children, the story acknowledges that the Yes vote was just a beginning, thus leaving room to explore more recent indigenous issues and events including Sorry Day and the ongoing quest for Reconciliation.

Illustrations use a combination of black and white photos, newspaper and document extracts, and illustrations of the two children in grey scale with bright splashes of colour for their clothing.

An important book for school and home.

Say Yes, by Jennifer Castles & Paul Seden
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294670

I’m Australian Too, by Mem Fox & Ronojoy Ghosh (ill.)

My auntie came from Athens
with her brother and her niece.
And now we live in Adelaide
because it’s so like Greece.
How about you?

Since the first white settlers arrived in Australia, there have been ongoing debates, discussions and worse, regarding just who has the right to be here, or to call themselves Australian. This is a really important topic, but not always an easy one to explore in a child-accessible way. I’m Australian Too manages to explore a wide range of versions of being Australian, from the first peoples, through to refugees – including those still waiting to find out if they will be ‘let in’ –  in a form which is easily digestible but also offers a way to discuss belonging and nationhood with even quite young children.

Opening with the lines I’m Australian!/ How about you?, each subsequent spread is from the voice of a different Australian child, telling where their family is from and where they live now. The closing pages focus on Australia’s tradition of opening doors to strangers, with echoes of the national anthem, and a reminder (or rejoinder) to live in peace. The important message of the story is reflected in the wonderful illustrations, showing the diversity of Australian homes, customs, landscapes and, of course, children.

Perfect for classroom discussions of belonging, multiculturalism, refugees and more, this is also perfect for at home sharing.

I’m Australian Too, by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh (ill.)
Omnibus Books, 2017
ISBN 9781760276218

Through the Gate, by Sally Fawcett

I sat on the broken front step of the ‘new’ house.
New town, new school … nothing was the same.

When she first sees her ‘new’ house, a young girl sees nothing but ‘old’ – drooping roof, peeling paint, a crumbling step, and cracks everywhere. She is not impressed. She does not like change. At all. She plods off to her first week of school. But after the first week, she notices a tiny change to her house. As the weeks past, the house continues to change – and so does her movement, until, finally, she skips towards her new home.

Through the Gate is a clever, feel-good book about coping with change and, particularly, moving home. Visually, the transformation of the house from a tumble down cottage with a broken picket fence, to a beautifully restored house, with fence and garden, is clever. The use of colour – with early illustrations showing all but the girl in grey scale, and colour being added progressively as the house changes – highlights the girl’s changing attitude as she finds pleasure in her new life, and adapts to the changes.

A wonderful story of resilience.

Through the Gate, by Sally Fawcett
EK Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925335415