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)

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris

There was a great chuckling and chortling, gurgling and cackling, as all the kookaburras of the tribe gathered together in a little forest at the top of a hill for Kookaburra school.

The kookaburra parents are all bringing their children to be tutored by Wise Old Bird in the ways of the kookaburra – take offs, landing, hunting for food and all manner of other important skills. BigEye isn’t so sure that he needs to go to kookaburra school, but his sister and parents convince him it is necessary, so off he goes.

At kookaburra school Big Eyes, his friends Blue Tail and Stripe and the other fledglings learn Pecking up Worms, Fast, Straight and Low Flying, Calls and Sitting still. They also learn to huddle together on a high branch before sunset, to be safe from danger.

But one afternoon, just before sunset, BigEyes chases a snake into the shed. The snake disappears, and BigEyes finds himself trapped behind cold hard glass. He has to spend the night trapped alone in the shed. How will he get out?

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris, is a fictional story based on a real event at Jill’s home. One morning she found a kookaburra trapped in her studio, and rescued it. Later she watched a large group of kookaburras meeting in the forest near her home.

The delightful illustrations of Heather Gall make an excellent complement to this story, suitable for reading aloud to preschoolers and independent reading by six to eight year olds.

Kookaburra School, by Jill Morris
Greater Glider Productions, 2002. rrp $14.30

Jenny Spaghetti

Jenny is five years old, and what she likes to eat, more than aything else, is spaghetti. Lots of it. She asks for spaghetti for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But she eats so much spaghetti that one morning she discovers that her hair has turned into spaghetti.

Jenny Spaghetti, the first book by writer and illustrator Karen Margaret, is the cute story of what happens as Jenny tries to solve her problem.

At the spaghetti factory where Jenny goes, looking for help, Jenny finds herself grabbed by a spaghetti machine and squished into a can. A journey through the production line follows and Jenny finds herself on a supermarket shelf, where she is a bought by a little old lady.

Imagine the lady’s surprise when she finds Jenny in her bowl at lunchtime. Together they try to solve Jenny’s dilemma – until the little old lady comes up with a very clever solution.

Children aged three to eight will enjoy this quirky tale. They will especially enjoy the fun and bright illustrations.

Jenny Spaghetti is the first publication of new Western Australian publisher Blossom Books. The quality of this hardback edition is to be applauded.

Jenny Spaghetti by Karen Margaret
Blossom Books, 2001.

Ideas For Parents and Educators

1. The first time you read the story, stop on the page before the old lady comes up with the solution (But it just grew back). Ask your child/ren for suggestions how they could solve Jenny’s problems. Discuss each one. Then finish reading the story.

2. Make a collage picture of Jenny. Draw her face then glue pieces of uncooked pasta or wool for her hair. If you are using pasta, have fun with the shapes and colours of different pasta – spaghetti, spirals, vegeroni and so on.

3. Discuss each child’s favourite food. For older children, have them write a story or draw a picture of what would happen if they turned into their favourite food.

4. For the littlies: Give children tubular pasta shapes for threading necklaces and bracelets. To make it more fun, dye the pasta with food colouring first.

5. Use a garlic press to make ‘spaghetti’ out of play dough. Make a ball of dough for jenny’s head and attach the spaghetti.

6. When you’ve finished reading and playing, have a big bowl of spaghetti for lunch and dinner.

Six White Boomers

If you are an Australian parent then there is a good chance that you grew up singing Six White Boomers at Christmas time. This song, and the legendary singer Rolf Harris, have been a art of Christmas in Australia since 1960. This Christmas you can share the magic with your children.

Rolf Harris and Scholastic Australia (under its Margaret Hamilton imprint) have combined to produce the song lyrics in a beautiful picture book with accompanying compact disc.

The book includes the full lyrics to the song, written by Rolf and his friend John D. Brown, with watercolour illustrations by Bruce Whatley bringing the song to life.

The CD includes a recording of the song so that you and your young ones can sing along with Rolf. And, if you want more, there are two bonus Rolf Harris tracks – Christmas in the Sun and Pavlova

An introduction at the beginning of the book explains how Rolf came to write the song. he explains that he was always amazed to hear Australian sing songs about snow and icicles in the middle of Australian, and so set out to write a song more appropriate to our climate and culture. The longevity of this song’s success indicates that he struck a chord with fellow Aussies.

Every Australian child deserves a copy of this book – one of the few Christmas songs written especially for Australian children. Friends and relatives overseas may also enjoy this piece of Australiana.

Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris and Bruce Whatley
A Margaret Hamilton Book from Scholastic Australia, 2001

Possum Pictures

Australia’s unique animals are a favourite subject for children’s writers. Two enduring classics have possums as their central characters.

In Possum Magic, by Mem Fox, we meet Grandma Poss, who is no ordinary possum – she makes bush magic. Blue wombats, smiling dings amd shrinking emus are all in her repertoire. But her best piece of magic makes young Hush invisible. This is all very well until one day Hush decides she would like to see what she looks like.

Grandma Poss and Hush embark on an adventure to find the right magic to make Hush visible again. Along the way they sample all the best of Australian foods – but will they find the answer to Hush’s problem?

Possum Magic was Fox’s first published work, making its debut in 1983, but is still delighting both youngsters and their parents. The tale is perfectly accomplished by gorgeous illustrations by the talented Julie Vivas.

In Possum in the House by Kiersten Jensen, no one is happy when a possum gets in – in the pantry he spills the cornflakes, in the laundry he rips the shirts, and in the lounge he scratches the records. Will Mum and Dad ever catch him?

This gorgeous story is sure to be a favourite with both children and parents because of its flowing, up-beat rhythm and cute ending. The detailed illustrations by Tony Oliver make a perfect complement to the text.

Both of these books will make excellent additions to your child’s book collection.

Possum Magic, by Mem Fox
Omnibus Books, 1983.

Possum in the house by Kiersten Jensen
Childerset Books, 1986.

Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r

Rarely is a picture book written which will have the adult reader laughing aloud at its humour. Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r, by Geoff Havel is, fortunately, one such uniquely funny offering, which will be loved by both parents and children for its simple wit.

The premise of the book is simple – a group of animals share their reactions to an accident they witness. But this is not another talking animals story. Instead, Havel cleverly uses the animals’ sounds to tell the story. So, the skidding of the car is echoed by the parrot’s “Screech!” and the arrival of the ambulance heralded by the donkey’s “Eeyore, eeyore.” The bright and comical illustrations of Peter Kendall make a gorgeous complement to Havel’s text.

This is a book which will be read and enjoyed many times, with children quickly learning to ‘help’ the reader out with the animal sounds and even the narration. A must-have classic.

Ca-a-r Ca-a-a-a-r, by Geoff Havel
Published by Sandcastle Books, Fremantle Arts Centre Press children’s book imprint (1996).

Cat Balloon

Every night one thousand cats watch the moon ride over their heads. One small cat called Cat Balloon longs to fly with the moon, but the other cats tell him sternly: “Cats can’t fly.”

Cat Balloon doesn’t care what they say – he is determined to find a way and so sets off on a journey to search for the secret of the full moon. That night, nine hundred and ninety-nine cats see an amazing sight.

Cat Balloon, by Palo Morgan, is a delightful story in verse suitable for three to seven year olds. Not only will children love the story, they will be fascinated by Morgan’s beautiful illustrations. From plain moggies to stately lions, the one thousand cats will captivate young animal lovers and the luminous moon seems to sine out of the page.

The book is available with or without a CD of music from the Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s stage adaptation.

Cat Balloon, by Palo Morgan
Published by Sandcastle Books (Fremantle Arts Centre Press Children’s Book Imprint), 1992.

A Fisherman's Tale

Fishing in tidepools is fun, but watch out – if you take a little fish home for a pet, you may get more than you bargained for.

A Fisherman’s Tale, by Keith Faulkner and Jonathon Lambert, is a delightful lift the flap book which kids will love and parents enjoy reading.

The story is a little reminiscent of another old favourite, Seuss’s The Boy Who Fed His Fish Too Much, but this does not detract from the book. Kids love lifting and unfolding flaps and pages as they see the fish grow bigger and bigger and bigger, and the final flap with its satisfying ending.

A Fisherman’s Tale, published by Australian publisher, Koala Books is suitable for one to six year olds.

A Fisherman’s Tale, by Keith Faulkner and Jonathan Lambert
Published by Koala Books, Sydney, 1994