Boy, by Phil Cummings & Shane Devries

Boy couldn’t hear the battle cries, but he had seen the fear in his mother’s eyes and felt it in his father’s hands when he held him close.
The battles were loud and long…
but no-one ever won.

Boy lives in silence. Unable to hear, he talks with his hands, though only his parents take the time to understand him. In spite of this, boy is happy. Unfortunately, the rest of the villagers are not. They live near a forest where a fearsome dragon and fierce king have been battling. Every body is in danger, but nobody know why. It takes the wisdom – and peace – of Boy to solve the problem.

Boy is a heartwarming picture book about an unlikely hero who proves his bravery and wisdom. Boy is deaf, and it is this difference which sees him not only have a different view of the world, but also inadvertently put himself in danger. However, instead of running, he tackles the two fighting sides, and finds a way to ask them why they are fighting. The message, of peace and communication, is not over stated, it just is.

Illustrations, rendered digitally with a feel of watercolour, particularly in the landscapes feature expressive human characters, and a whimsical purple dragon. with lots of humorous touches and a pastel colour pallete, with lots of sepia tones, lending a medieval feel.

Delightful.

Boy , by Phil Cummings and SHane Devries
Scholastic Press, 2017
ISBN 9781760277055

My Lovely Frankie, by Judith Clarke

Frankie believed in Heaven quite literally, as if it was another lovely world out past the stars. And when he spoke the word “love”, it seemed to spring free and fly into the air like a beautiful balloon you wanted to run after. But I couldn’t tell my parents about Frankie. I couldn’t tell them how he was becoming the best thing in my world. I couldn’t tell anyone, I  hardly admitted it myself.

When teenage Tom decides to enter the seminary his intentions are clear: he wants something more than ordinary happiness, and feels, in spite of his parents’ uncertainty, that he is being called to become a priest. At St Finbar’s life is more difficult than Tom imagined, filled with rules and restrictions. Yet it is here that he meets Frankie, and learns that happiness and love are inextricably linkd.

My Lovely Frankie  is a tale of seminary life, love and self-discovery set in 1950s Australia. From the moment he meets Frankie, Tom feels a connection he struggles to comprehend, particularly in light of his sheltered existence. What is it he feels for Frankie?

Told in the first person voice of a modern day, much older, Tom as he looks back on the events of his teen years, the story gradually unfolds, with the narrative style giving glimpses of the life he has lived in the intervening years, as well as keeping the reader guessing as to the events of the year in question.

Beautifully written, this is a story which will haunt long after the last page.

My Lovely Frankie, by Judith Clarke
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760296339

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

Chook Doolan: Books 5-8, by James Roy

My other name is Chook. People call me that because chickens are sometimes called chooks, and I’m a bit of a chicken. That means I’m scared of hings, which is true. I do get scared of things. A lot.

Chook – also known as Simon Henry Doolan – is scared of a lot of things. Holidays away from home, school camps (they’re might be snakes!), talking to new people, and crowds. Luckily, deep down he is pretty brave, and with support from those around him he manages to find ways to confront his fears.

The Chook Doolan series features a likable, everyday kid, with lots of worries. Chook is honest about his failings, but also draws on everything he can to confront his problems and to find a way forward. Young readers will relate to many of the things he fears, as well as to the gentle humour of the stories.

The text is accessible to early readers, and is supported by illustrations on most spreads. Each book stands alone, meaning that these four new i=offerings, plus the previous four, can be read in any order.

Chook Doolan: On the Road (ISBN 9781925381566)
Chook Doolan: Un-happy Camper (ISBN 9781925381573)
Chook Doolan: Up and Away (ISBN 9781925381580)
Chook Doolan: Let’s Do Diwali (ISBN 9781925381597)
All by James Roy, Illustrated by Lucinda Gifford
Walker Books, 2017

Polly & Buster: The Wayward Witch & the Feelings Monster, by Sally Rippin

Buster shrugs. ‘Not every witch can be a Black Witch,’ he says. ‘But you’ll be special at something, I just know it! And even if you never find that thing you are good at, you will always be special to me.’
Polly feels her heart squeeze with love for Buster. She throws her arms around his big, thick waist. ‘You are the loveliest friend a witch could ever have.’

Polly and Buster have always been friends – but their friendship has to be a secret, because witches like Polly are not supposed to be friends with monsters like Buster. Being secret friends isn’t their only problem. Polly is struggling at school, because none of her spells ever work, and Buster is hiding a secret: he gets bigger or smaller depending on his emotions, which is very un-monsterlike. When their classes cross paths on a school excursion, their secrets are in danger of being revealed, and Polly has to choose between being suddenly popular, or being true to herself – and her friend.

The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster is the first title featuring witch Polly and monster Buster, and young readers will adore the characters, the story and the format: hard cover with gold trim and black and white illustrations. While the story is self contained, readers will be keen to know what happens net and will eagerly await the next installment.

Polly and Buster: The Wayward Witch and the Feelings Monster, by Sally Rippin
Hardie Grant Egmont, 2017
ISBN 9781760129019

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope

Finally they are in the queue to get back out onto the main road.
Coffee, here I come.
‘Mum…’
‘Not now, Aaron, I’m trying to concentrate.’
The traffic has built up in only a few minutes and cars scream past the service station. Malia feels her headache settle in.
This day is never going to end.
‘But Mum…’
‘What Aaron, what?’
‘Where is baby Zach, Mum? Where is he?’

It’s early morning, and already Malia knows it’s not going to be a good day. Her husband Ian has confessed to losing money on the pokies last night – money that could have paid the bills that are piling up. She’s got three kids to get ready for school and daycare. And there is no milk for breakfast. She has to get all three children into the car to make the short drive to the service station so that they can have breakfast. But something terrible happens while she’s buying the milk and suddenly her day is as bad as a day could be. Baby Zach is gone, and she is surrounded by police.

Ali Greenberg is a Detective newly returned to work from maternity leave. She’s been itching to be given a case to solve, but her boss is not sure this is the case for her. She knows better than anyone else around what it is Malia is going through. It might be a better idea to stay at the office – but she feels compelled to help Malia get her baby back.

Jackie is down on her luck. She has said sorry a thousand times, but still she has been punished for a terrible mistake. A strange turn of events gives her what she sees as a chance to put her life back together.

In one hot, troubling day, Forgotten follows the troubling, heartstopping race to find an abducted baby and reunite mother and child. The stories of four women who don’t know each other become inextricably intertwined, and readers will have their hearts in their mouths as the day unfolds.

Well crafted, this is a dramatic tale.

Forgotten, by Nicole Trope
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760296773

Ache, by Eliza Henry Jones

Annie has never been the sort of person to have nightmares. But since the fires on the mountain, her dreams have changed. They have developed a pattern, as though the fire changed the landscape of everything inside her. The ridges and curves.
Her dreams are steady, the same things flickering across each night. Ash and bubbles and dark water that movs like waves.
Since the fires, since leaving her nana on the mountain, Annie has dreamt of ash. She’s dreamt of drowning.

A year ago, Annie was visiting her grandmother up the mountain when a terrible fire ripped through the area. Since leaving her nana behind to die, Annie has tried to keep her life in the city from completely falling apart. But her daughter, Pip, is traumatised, her husband Tom is angry, and Annie herself is haunted by what happened. Now, she needs to go back to her childhood home to try to get her mother’s life back on track. But being there also means confronting her own demons, and helping Pip find equilibrium.

Ache is a moving story of survival and rebuilding in the face of adversity. A whole family, and a whole community, have been impacted by the fire, and Jones captures the range of emotions and experiences which might be expected from such an event as well as examining the ways survivors can find a new normal in order to move forward.

Beautiful.

Ache, by Eliza Henry Jones
Fourth Estate, Harper Collins, 2017
ISBN 9781460750384

Super Con-Nerd, by Oliver Phommavanh

My name is Connor and I’m a nerd, so my friends call me Con-nerd. Well, my old friends did, back at Green hill Primary. I’ve only been here at Kentsworth High School for a week, so nobody has called me Con-nerd. They don’t even call me a nerd.
That’s because this place is full of nerds.

In primary school, Connor had a great group of friends. They thought he was a nerd, but that was one of the things they liked about him. This year, though, Connor is at highschool, and his friends are at different schools. He’s at an academic selective school, and everyone there is smart. Suddenly, Connor isn’t the smartest one in his class. In fact, he isn’t anywhere near the top.  With no friends to talk to, and everyone around seemingly super-smart, Connor isn’t sure if he’ll survive his first term of high school, let alone make his family proud, or have time to follow his true dream – of being a comic book creator.

Super Con-Nerd is the second story featuring Connor, who is smart, funny, loyal to his friends and an entertaining narrator. This installment stands alone satisfactorily, but it will be especially enjoyed by those who have already met Connor in the first book.

Suitable for readers of all abilities, Super Con-Nerd is a satisfying read.

Super Con-Nerd, by Oliver Phommavanh
Puffin Books 2017
ISBN 9780143306535