The Zoo Room, by Louise Schofield

Max and Kelly have a strange Aunt who works at the zoo. When Aunt Zelda is around, wierd and wonderful things happen. So when Aunt Zelda invites the family to the Zoo Room to celebrate Max’s birthday, no one knows what to expect.

At the Zoo Room, there are strange things afoot. The waiter is a bear, the fellow diners are birds and beasts, and there is no sign of Aunt Zelda. Choosing from a menu of fried bugs and beast of the day proves a little challenging. The restaurant is a thrilling combination of excitement and danger. When the meal is over, the children are not sure they really want to go home.

The Zoo Room is a fun story with fantasy and frivolity blended in a way to appeal to five to eight year olds. The illustrations of Malcolm Geste capture both the fun and the mystery of the tale. Kids will love searching for the elusive Aunt Zelda, who can be found peeking at her nephew’s adventure. A fun read.

The Zoo Room, by Louise Schofield, illustrated by Malcolm Geste
Sandcastle Books, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002

The Bravest Penguin of All, by Rina A. Foti

It is the day of the Great Penguin Swim Race, and all the penguins are very excited, especially Little Blue Penguin. She is determined to win.

When the other penguins hear this,they laugh. No-one so small has ever won the race.But Little Blue Penguin is not deterred, telling herself over and over that she can do it.

When the race begins, the bigger penguins splash and splatter Little Blue Penguin and tell her to get out of the way, but still she keeps going. She can hear the cheering of the crowd, driving her on.

When the cheering stops, Little Blue Penguin senses something is wrong. A Killer Whale is lurking nearby and all the racers are in danger. Is Little Blue Penguin too small to save her friends?

The Bravest Penguin of All is a delightful story which will charm youngsters (and their parents) with its gentle message. Beautifully complemented by the illustrations of Cathy Abadie, in the blues and greens of the Antarctic environment, and supplemented by a page of penguin and Antarctic facts, The Bravest Penguin of All will appeal to 4 to 8 year olds and is also suitable for classroom collections.

The Bravest Penguin of All, by Rina A. Foti, illustrated by Cathy Abadie
Koala Books, 2002

Bones Maloney and the Raspberry Spiders, by Glenda Millard

Bones Maloney might look tough, but his heart is as soft as a cherry brandy chocolate. Bones and his Jazz Doggies are the star attraction at Barker’s café every Friday night. But, if there is one thing that Bones loves more than singing it is the raspberry spiders that are served at Barkers. Unfortunately, he isn’t paid enough to be able to buy one. What would happen if his throat was too dry to sing half way through his performance?

This humorous picture book combines children’s fantasy with the blues scene for an effect that will entertain both children and their adult readers. The illustrations of Matt Cosgrove are awesome, with vibrant colours and adorable dog-characters ranging from chihuahuas to dalmations to mutts and hounds.

Most likely to appeal to readers aged 4 to 8, Glenda Millard’s story will have you hankering for a raspberry spider.

Bones Maloney and the Raspberry Spiders
, by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Matt Cosgrove
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Ashton Scholastic, 2002

The Legend of Moondyne Joe, by Mark Greenwood

One of the more colourful characters from Western Australia’s past has been brought to life in a new picture book from Cygnet Books, the children’s imprint of UWA Press.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe
tells the story of Joseph Johns (who became known as Moondyne Joe), who is remembered for his daring escapes from custody.

History has questioned whether Joe was really a hardened criminal, or simply a harmless lover of freedom. Author Mark Greenwood manages to explore Moondyne’s tale without either condemning or condoning his actions, yet the reader finds himself quietly cheering Joe on.

The story is told in simple yet clear detail and is superbly complemented by the gouache paintings of illustrator Frane Lessac (who is also Greenwood’s wife). The illustrations add to the air of history in the piece and are also true to the Western Australian setting. The pictures of the Fremantle Prison are especially accurate.

The addition of a glossary of terms and notes on the convict era are a useful educational tool and also help the independent reader to access the text.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe is an outstanding non fiction picture book text.

The Legend of Moondyne Joe, by Mark Greenwood, illustrated by Frane Lessac
Cygnet Books (an imprint of UWA Press), 2002

Cowtime, by Kim Barnes

When the sun goes down and the farmers go to bed – it’s COWTIME!

The girls in the cowshed really go to town, dancing and mooing up a storm. But that’s not all – soon the pigs start jumping, horses start wiggling, and the goats, sheep, ducks – even kangaroos and possums – all join in.

This high energy book, by talented writer/illustrator Kim Barnes, is guaranteed to thrill every young reader. The rollicking rhyme, compelte with mooing chorus, is silly enough to have the most serious listener smiling and mooing along.

There are even actions, demonstrated on each page by a dingo, making the book an excellent resource for preprimaries, playgroups and child care centres.

The illustrations are outstanding. Every page is packed full of colour and action. The detail is exceptional, with loads of surprises to be discovered on rereadings. A cat (who refuses to take part in the silliness of the dance) is cleverly hidden on each page, and other clever touches, include the multicultural faces of the human characters, as well as one who is wheelchair-bound.

Cowtime is sure to be an enduring classic.

Cowtime, written and illustrated by Kim Barnes
Scholastic Press, 2002

My Yellow Blanky, by Sofie Laguna

This is Yellow Blanky. We go everywhere together.

Eevry child can relate to the experience of owning a special blanket or toy which spells security and familiarity. In My Yellow Blanky, the special item is, predictably, a yellow blanket.

The child (delightfully unnamed and of an indefinite gender) loves the blanky, especially the special smells it harbours – smells that encompass all of the child’s experiences. But, when Mum takes the blanket away for a wash, something happens to those smells.

The delightfully simple text (little over 200 words) of this title will appeal to preschool aged children and also be accessible for the beginning reader. It would be an excellent bed time story, with its gentle action and message of security.

The beautiful colour pencil illustrations of Tom Jellett complement the text perfectly – the rich pastel tones giving a warmth which echoes the story’s message.

Sofie Laguna comes from an acting background. My Yellow Blanky is her first picture book. She is also the author of Bill’s Best Day, an Omnibus Solo.

Tom Jellet has illustrated a number of children’s books, including Australia at the Beach and Fuzz, the Famous Fly

My Yellow Blanky, by Sofie Laguna, illustrated by Tom Jellett
Omnibus Books, 2002

Please Go to Sleep, by Sue Whiting

Every tiger needs a good night’s sleep. So, as night falls on the jungle, Tiny Tiger and his Mother settle down to sleep. But the night jungle is full of strange noises. Swishety Swish, Rustle, Crunch. With each new noise Tiny Tiger grows more scared. All his mother wants is for Tiny Tiger to go to sleep.

Please Go To Sleep is a fun new picture book from talented Australian children’s author, Sue Whiting. Kids will love the humour and movement of the story, learning to echo the noises of the jungle as the story is read.

Sleep-deprived parents will also appreciate the story, relating to the increasing frustration of the mother as she tries to allay Tiny Tiger’s fears and encourage him to settle down to sleep. Putting feeling into the reading of Mother Tiger’s “Please, please, please go to sleep” will be easy for parents who have had similar experiences.

The text is well supported by the gorgeous illustrations by Michael Mucci. Mucci’s use of rich greens and purples captures the night jungle in a way which is appealing and non-threatening to children – he manages to make it night without being drab. The tigers are beautifully drawn, with the expressions of fear and frustration (on Tiny and his Mother’s face respectively) cleverly drawn.

Targeted at 3 to 6 year olds, Please Go To Sleep is an outstanding offering from Banana Books, the children’s book imprint of innovative new publisher, Otford Press. A must have for every collection.

Please Go to Sleep, by Sue Whiting, illustrated by Michael Mucci
Banana Books, 2002.
ISBN 1 876 92838 7

The Moon in the Man, by Elizabeth Honey

Rhyming is fun. Kids love the magic of a poem – whether it tells a story, plays with a rhythm or simply explores the fun of words.

The Moon in the Man is a magical new collection of poetry from Elizabeth Honey, which kids will adore, and parents and teachers will love reading and sharing.

Full of fun and simple rhymes and finger plays, accompanied by bright colourful illustrations, the book will help students to enjoy and improvise with language.

Poems include short whimsical rhymes and loads of finger plays complete with diagrams to show the actions. And if these aren’t enough you can see Elizabeth Honey performing these rhymes on the net at www.allenandunwin.com/moonintheman.asp.

If that is not enough, there are also longer poems perfect for clapping, clicking or tapping along to, building on children’s love of rhythm, and, to finish the books, a couple of quieter, reflective ones.

This is poetry collection which should have a place in every kindergarten, playgroup, child care centre and school, but which is also perfect for sharing at home. Children will love to come back to their favourite rhymes over and over, and will quickly start to memorise the words and read the poems along with you. The poems are also excellent for creative writing sessions, with easily repeatable patterns which children could use to add on extra verses.

Elizabeth Honey is a prize-winning author of novels, poetry and picture books, with a style and energy of her own. Her last picture book Not a Nibble! was the Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year in 1997.The Moon in the Man continues her tradition of excellence.

The Moon in the Man, written and illustrated by Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin, 2002.

Two for Older Readers

Two newly released picture books are challenging the perception that picture books are just for preschoolers. Both books will appeal to older children and would be useful in the school setting.

In Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle (Banana Books), a dog named Kaffy explores an abandoned brickworks, where he meets an old man who once worked in the brickworks. The man speaks to Kaffy of his loneliness and loss of purpose. The magical events which follow, lead to Kaffy helping to get the brickworks reopened in a different guise, and the Doomie to find a sense of purpose.

Told in a simple rhyming structure and complemented by simple sketches and colour illustrations by Harold Tiefel, the story combines a sense of history with a feeling of fantasy and fun. This would be an excellent book for exploring subjects of aging, redundancy, and valuing our past.

From Fremantle Arts Centre Press comes In Flanders Fields by Norman Jorgensen, another book with a historical focus. This story provides a compelling counterpoint to images often seen of war, depicting its senselessness and inhumanity. The book tells the story of a homesick soldier who , in the temporary ceasefire which comes with Christmas day, spies a robin caught on some wire in no man’s land. One wing flaps helplessly as the robin tries to escape.

Rather than enjoy the lull in fighting and remain in safety, the soldier risks walking towards German trenches to rescue the robin, which would die without help. Soldiers from both sides watch in disbelief as he risks his own life to save that of the robin.

The story is presented in picture book format, with beautiful illustrations from Brian-Harrison-Lever, perfectly complementing the text . Again, this book would be an excellent classroom tool, especially when dealing with topics relating to war.

Kaffy Meets the Doomie, by Brendan Doyle, Illustrated by Harold Tiefel
Banana Books, 2002.

In Flanders Fields, by Norman Jorgensen, illustrated by Brian Harrison-Lever
Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 2002.

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox

One fine day, from out of town, and without any warning at all, there appeared a magic hat.

As the magic hat moves through the town, spinning through the air from person to person, its magic causes chaos – and hilarity. Young readers will join in the guessing, with the hat changing each person it lands on into something surprising. Where and how will this magic end?

The Magic Hat is the latest magical offering from renowned Australian children’s author, Mem Fox. Beautifully illustrated by Tricia Tusa, the book continues the fine tradition of outstanding offerings from Ms Fox.

As with earlier books, the charm of this book is in its rhythm and its simplicity. Children will love the repeated refrain which will help them guess what is going to happen next as the magic hat weaves its way through the town.

Mem Fox is one of Australia’s best known and most celebrated children’s authors, with 25 best selling titles to her credit. Her very first picture book, Possum Magic, first published in 1983, remains the best selling ever picture book in Australia, with over 1.5 million copies sold in Australia. Other popular titles include Boo to a Goose, Koala Lou, and Wilfred Gordon Mcdonald Partridge. Outside Australia Mem has also achieved great popularity, having reached Oprah’s list of twenty all-time best children’s books, with her title Time for Bed. For adults, Fox has written Reading Magic, recommended reading for parents and teachers, and Mem’s the Word, her autobiography.

The Magic Hat is wondeful bedtime reading for 3 to 6 year olds.

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox
Scholastic Australia, 2002. rrp AUD $24.95 (hardback)