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
www.clairesaxby.com

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
spinning
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
www.clairesaxby.com

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.

Lovely.

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

A Bag and a Bird, by Pamela Allen

All went well until the bag filled with air.
The bird was stopped. Down it fell.
The bag became its parachute.
Slowly down, down it went, into the water.
While it sat there on the sea, the plastic bag began to sing. Deeper and deeper it sank.

When John and his mother set off for a picnic at Sydney’s Botanic Gardens they pack a picnic in a plastic bag. But, when they sit down to eat, the plastic bag blows away, and, after a group of birds fight over its contents, the bag is caught on one bird as it flies away. Spectators come together to solve the bird’s dilemma and save it from drowning, pulled down by the bag.

A Bag and a Bird is a picture book with a gentle message about the impact of litter on animals, as well as an action-filled story which children will enjoy. The sense of community portrayed in both the text and the comic-style pictures will delight, and defenders of the much-maligned ibis, will be pleased to see that the bird in question is, in fact, an ibis.

With Allen’s whimsical style and a story that is both fun and gently educative, A Bag and a Bird will be popular at school and at home and, set amongst iconic Sydney landmarks, makes a good souvenir or gift.

A Bag and a Bird, by Pamela Allen
Penguin, 2017
ISBN 9780143783909

Paddy O’Melon The Irish Kangaroo, by Julia Cooper & Daryl Dickson

‘What kind of animal are you?’ they asked Paddy.
‘I’m Paddy O’Melon and I’m an Irish kangaroo,’ he proudly explained.
‘Really?’ said Keiran, and the gang of animals giggled.
Paddy wondered why they thought this was funny.

It’s an exciting day for the young joey: his first day out of his mother’s pouch. But when he and his mother are separated, the day becomes a bit too exciting, for all the wrong reasons. Luckily he is rescued by an Irish family who live near the forest and rescue orphaned and injured animals. they look after the joey, who they all Paddy, and Paddy is safe, but he really isn’t sure what kind of animal he is or where he belongs. The humans say he’s an Irish kangaroo, so he figures that’s right – until he is put straight, and eventually returned safely back to his mother.

Paddy O’Melon The Irish Kangaroo is an entertaining and educational picture book, which, as well as being the story of one young pedemelon’s separation from his mother, also gently shares the importance of protecting wildlife from dogs and other dangers and, through back-of-book notes, educates about the rainforest flora and fauna. The book’s author had a passion for Australian wildlife before her early death, and the book has been posthumously published to share her passion.

Illustrations, in watercolour and pen, are realistic in style with beautiful renderings of the various animals.

Suitable for solo reading and educational settings.

Paddy O’Melon The Irish Kangaroo by Julia Cooper & Daryl Dickson
EK Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925335637

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros, by Meg McKinlay & Leila Rudge

Once, there was a small rhinoceros
who wanted to see the big world.

All the other rhinoceroses do the things that rhinoceroses are supposed to do: they wallow in the mud, bathe in the sun, eat grass and rub their horns against trees. But for one small rhinoceros these things are not enough. She wishes she could see the world.  And, although she knows that rhinoceroses can’t build boats, and especially can’t sail and steer boats, she builds her own little boat and sets off to see the world.

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros is a gentle, humorous but inspirational picture book story. The text tells a tale of courage and following dreams and will appeal to young dreamers. The mixed media illustrations are in gentle tones, allowing the rhinoceroses to star both in the jungle and in the settings the young rhinoceros travels through.

A divine offering for children and adults alike.

Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros, by Meg McKinlay & Leila Rudge
Walker Books, 2017
ISBN 9781925126709

The Sloth Who Came to Stay, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne To

Sloth ate
very,
very
slowly.
He was so slow that Amy had plenty of time to talk about the things that had happened that day.

Amy’s family is the speediest family in the world. They do everything fast: shopping, eating, walking. There is never any time to talk or play or laugh. Until Amy brings home a sloth she finds in the park. Because the sloth does everything slowly, the family are forced to go slower too. And things begin to change.

The Sloth Who Came to Stay is a humorous tale with an important reminder for readers of all age about the value of taking time to enjoy conversations, experiences and more. With text by the marvelous icon of Australian chidlren’s literature, Margaret Wild, and digital illustrations from debut illustrator Vivienne To, this is a delight.

The Sloth Who Came to Stay, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne To
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760290221