Captain Purrfect, by Jackie French

Harlie is in bed when the shadow man appears from nowhere. He is very frightened – the shadow man is going to get him – until, in a flash of fur and claws, Captain Purrfect appears and sends the shadow on his way. Harlie is pretty surprised to learn that his grandfather’s cat, Moggs is really Captain Purrfect, superhero.

Harlie learns that all Captain Purrfect would like in return for keeping the house free of shadow men, rust fingers and other monsters, is to be fed decent food. He does not like cat food at all.

Captain Purrfect helps Harley keep the monsters and bullies at bay. Can Harlie help Captain Purrfect defeat the nasty gurgle who lives in the house’s drains, and get a decent feed?

Captain Purrfect is a delightful offering from well known Australian author, Jackie French. The text is well-complemented by cartoon-style drawings from illustrator Gus Gordon. Kids will love this humorous tale and may not realise they are also learning a subtle message about dealing with bullies.

Captain Purrfect is an orange level Tadpole from Koala Books. Tadpoles are graded reading for emergent readers, matching readers with books using a colour coded reading barometer. Children emerge from reading picture books and progress across the Tadpole range of bridging book to reading independently. Orange level books are in the middle of the Tadpole spectrum, aimed at confident readers.

Captain Purrfect, by Jackie French, illustrated by Gus Gordon
Koala Books, 2002

The Thunder Egg Thief, by Sue Cason

Nick’s Mum needs a break, so Dad suggests a weekend in the country. With the caravan behind, Nick, his parents and his sister Emily, head off for a quiet weekend at Mount Perilous, which Nick thinks looks just like a sleeping dinosaur. When they stop for petrol at a nearby service station, the attendant – Sal – tells Nick to watch out for the perilosaurus. Apparently it’s their nesting season.

When the family go fossicking, Emily finds a beautiful fossil. Nick is jealous – he tries desperately to find one too. What he finds, however, is a thunder egg. His Dad tells him that this will be beautiful cut in two so that the coloured stripes inside the rock will be visible. Nick thinks the rock looks just like a dinosaur egg. But what would happen if the dinosaur wanted her egg back? He hears wailing and strange cries echoing through the bush and knows there’s only one thing to do.

The Thunder Egg Thief, by Sue Cason is an adventure tale which will appeal to kids with an interest in dinosaurs or fantasy. Well complemented with illustrations by Lloyd Foye, the story will be accessible to children taking their first steps from picture books towards novels.

The Thunder Egg Thief is one of six new Orange level Tadpole books from Koala Books, and is suitable for home collections, libraries and class room use. Tadpoles books provide graded reading opportunities for emergent readers, allowing teachers and parents to match children and books according to their reading level.

The Thunder Egg Thief, by Sue Cason, illustrated by Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2002.

Sticky Bill, by Hazel Edwards and Christine Anketell

When Sticky Bill comes to live on the Children’s Farm he finds himself caught up in a crisis. The Health and Safety inspector has said that the farm needs urgent repairs. If these aren’t carried out, the farm will close. All the repairs will cost thousands of dollars, which the farm just doesn’t have.

Sticky Bill quickly makes friends on the farm. There’s Pig, Parrot, Sheep , Goat, Cow and, of course Cate, who looks after them all. He doesn’t want to see the farm close, when he’s just got there. Neither, of course, do the other animals. The farm is their home.

So, when they have the chance of appearing in a television commercial, it seems a good chance to make the money necessary to save the farm. However, when you try to make a commercial starring a proud cow, a clumsy (though well-meaning) duck and a zany sheep and goat, things probably won’t go according to plan.

Kids aged 6 to 9 will love this hilarious story, and adore the gorgeous characters. They may even be sad when it’s finished, which isn’t a bad thing, because, when it is finished, they can simply turn the book over for a second story featuring another adventure from the Children’s Farm.

In Cyberfarm, there are plans to turn the farm into a Cyberfarm with virtual games and cyber helmets. The real animals are worried that they’ll be replaced with robots and lose their jobs. Cate is worried too.

StickyBill has a plan. He will direct the animals in a special show, to prove to the farm’s visitors that real animals are much more interesting than virtual ones.

These two delightful stories, written by Hazel Edwards and Christine Anketell, and illustrated by Mini Goss, are part of the innovative Banana Splits series from Banana Books, the children’s book imprint of Otford Press. Each book includes two stories back to back, from the same author. Kids will love the novelty of this format, and parents and librarians will like the inherent value for money that this concept offers – two books for the price of one.

StickyBill: TV Duckstar and Cyberfarm, by Hazel Edwards and Christine Anketell, illustrated by Mini Goss
Otford Press, 2002.
ISBN 1 876928 91 3

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 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

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).