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)

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