Sleigh Ride, L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,
Ring-ting-tingling too,
Come on, it’s lovely weather
For a sleigh ride together with you.

This popular Christmas song filled with mentions of snow and sleighs seems an unlikely choice for an Australian picture book, but illustrator Matt Shanks has given it a very Australian makeover. The words are unchanged, but the sleigh bells belong to an icecream van, and the sleigh is a trailer towed behind it. The ice and snow come from an esky. The pages are also populated with a cast of Australian animals – koalas, wombats, numbats, galahs, echidnas and more are picked up in the icecream van sleigh and end up at the beach where the van’s driver is revealed as a penguin.

Youngsters will love seeing the song interpreted in a beach and outback setting, and there is a bonus CD featuring the song performed by Hum,an Nature and Jessica Mauboy, so they will be able to sing along.

Christmas fun.

Sleigh Ride, by L. Anderson & M. Parish, illustrated by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760276928

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum, by Gordon Winch & Stephen Pym

Penelope looked down the mountain, but Percy was nowhere to be seen.
‘Where’s that Percy?’ she thought. ‘He should be coming back by now.’

Penelope the pygmy possum wakes from her winter hibernation, looking forward to the return of her mate, Percy, who has spent the winter with the other males away from the cold of the mountains. But there is a problem. Over the winter roadworkers have built a new road, and now it is blocking the path of the male possums. Luckily, Rick the Ranger has a solution, and soon the males are using a new tunnel under the road to get home. Penelope and Percy are reunited.

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum is a cute picture story book which fictionalises the real events surrounding the building of a ‘tunnel of love’ for male pygmy possums to safely leave and return from the Snowy Mountains during the colder months, while the female possums remain on the mountains and hibernate. The story gives young readers the chance to learn about the pygmy possum and the threats to its existence. Illustrations show realistic landscapes, roadworks and wildlife, though the possums are partly anthropomorphised for narrative purposes.

Educational and entertaining.

Penelope the Mountain Pygmy Possum , by Gordon Winch & Stephen Pym
New Frontier, 2016
ISBN 9781925059595

Echidna Jim Went for a Swim, by Phil Cummings & Laura Wood

The animals floated on the waves.
They were having a wonderful time.
Echidna Jim went for a swim.

It’s a very hot day, but the animals don’t mind. Dingo has fixed the old blue bus that used to sit in the creek – and he’s taking everyone to the beach for a swim. At the beach everyone blows up their inflatable toys and swim rings, and has a lot of fun – until Echidna Jim joins in. His spikes wreak havoc, popping the inflatables – which could be a disaster, but instead, adds to the fun as the animals whoosh around.

Echidna Jim Went for a Swim is a humorous picture book story featuring lots of favourite Australian animals, including the echidna, the wombat, a platypus, an emu, a kangaroo and more, as well as all the fun of a bus ride and a trip to the beach. With lots of golden sand and watery aquas and blues, as well as the colourful inflatables and the browns and greys of the animals themselves, the illustrations fill the pages with movement and fun.

Echidna Jim Went for a Swim, by Phil Cummings & Laura Wood
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760152994

George the Bilby Chef and the Raspberry Muffin Surprise, by Jedda Robaard

George was so happy that he started to sing one of his made up songs:
‘Raspberry, raspberry, red and sweet,
How very lovely you are to eat!’

George the Bilby loves to cook, so when his friend Betty Echidna’s birthday arrives, George wants to make her something special: Raspberry Muffins. But he needs some help from his friends to find the raspberries, pick them and get them home. Finally he can bake the muffins ready for the party.

George the Bilby Chef and the Raspberry Muffin Surprise is the first in a new series from author-illustrator Jedda Robaard. With a cast of Aussie animals rendered in sweet pastel tones, and a collectible recipe card for the muffins which George bakes in the book, as well as gentle message about cooperation and sharing, this hard cover offering will be loved kids and parents.

George the Bilby Chef and the Raspberry Muffin Surprise, by Jedda Robaard
Five Mile Press, 2016
ISBN 9781760067113

Hop up! Wriggle over! by Elizabeth Honey

Hop up, wiggle over, wakey wakey, HUNGRY!
Crunch crunch, gobble gobble, lick lick, MORE!

So begins this beautiful little movement and sound filled offering for early childhood audiences. This unconventional animal family – Mum is a koala, Dad a big red kangaroo, and the nine children include a wombat, an echidna, a bilby and more – move through the day joyfully, from wake up till bedtime.

The text is minimal – just four words or phrases per spread, being the sounds the animals mutter (sploosh! boing…boing) or the occasional word such as yum yum! and a joyful Dad-dee! when Dad arrives at the park where the children are playing. Illustrations, in watercolour with pencil outlines are pastel-toned colours of the Australian bush, with white backgrounds and lots of fun detail for youngsters to discover. Movement is depicted with a few well placed lines, and the joy of the family is evident in their faces.

A joyful celebration of families and of Aussie animals.

Hop Up! Wriggle Over!, by Elizabeth Honey
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781743319987

Available from good bookstores and online.

Little Barry Bilby Had Fly Upon His Nose, by Colin Buchanan & Roland Harvey

Little Barry Bilby had a fly upon his nose…
Little Peter Possum had a mozzie on his ear…
Little Colly Cocky had a beetle on his beak…
And the bizzy buzzy bush bugs won’t go away!

This humorous picture book is filled with favourite Aussie animals – bilby, echidna, wombat, dingo and more – all afflicted by annoying bush bugs, from flies and mozzies to cicadas and even a bogong moth. The best solution is to tumble down the gully and jump in the creek. The repetitive text encourages children to join in, and can be either read or sung, with an accompanying CD coming in handy for the latter.

The illustrations are in gentle bush pastel tones with lovable animals and insects, with zany touches such as the slightly cross-eyed look of Barry Bilby.

Suitable for children from birth through to primary school age, Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose is lots of fun.

Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose, by Colin Buchanan and Roland Harvey
Scholastic Australia, 2015
ISBN 9781743621899

Available from good bookstores and online.

How I Love You by Anna Pignataro

Far in the bush, Little Koala and Mummy were playing.

Little Koala hugged Mummy very tightly and said,

‘This is how I love you, Mummy.’

Far in the bush, Little Koala and Mummy were playing.

Little Koala hugged Mummy very tightly and said,

‘This is how I love you, Mummy.’

Little Koala shows his mother how he loves her. Other baby Australian animals follow suit, expressing their love for their mother in their own special ways. First the day animals, then the night animals declare and show their love. Finally, it’s bedtime for Little Koala and his Mummy shows just how much she loves her baby. Illustrations are soft watercolour with pencil outlines. Habitats are indicated in vignettes, but mostly the images are of the animals themselves. Paper stock is a rich cream, endpapers are a lovely night-blue.

This is a lovely gentle book to be shared with small children, while they are curled in the reader’s lap. Each animal shares a little of its habitat and behaviour before snuggling with mother. In the final pages, it’s made clear that no matter how much the young love their mother, their mother loves them more. An introduction to Australian animals for the very young. Recommended for pre-school children.


How I Love You

How I Love You, Anna Pignataro Scholastic Press 2014 ISBN: 9781742838182

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

A Feast for Wombat, by Sally Morgan & Tania Erzinger

Wombat stared in surprise at the other animals.
Am I special after all?

When Wombat emerges from his tunnel, his friends are really glad to see him, but as Wombat watches them celebrate he feels sad. Each of his friends is good at something: Goanna is the fastest climber, Magpie is the best singer and Dingo is the cleverest dancer. Wombat wants to go back and hide in his tunnel, but his friends run after him to remind him that he, too, is good at things, and best of all, that Wombat is their friend.

A Feast for Wombat is a gentle tale of friendship and self belief. While Wombat wants to be like his friends, he seems unaware that each of them is different, as is he. His friends’ reminder of his own strengths is reassuring, and will reassure young readers, too.

The acrylic illustrations bring the cast of Australian animals to life in gentle bush colours with lovely textured backgrounds, adding to the warm feel of the book.


A Feast for Wombat, by Sally Morgan & Tania Erzinger
Omnibus, 2014
ISBN 9781742990187

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Croc and the Platypus, by Jackie Hosking & Marjorie Crosby-Fairall

The croc and the platypus trundled off
In a rusty Holden ute.
They took some damper and tea in a hamper
And bundled it up in the boot.

When the croc and platypus head outback in their dinky-di Aussie ute, they – and readers – are guaranteed an adventure.
Using the rhythm of Edward Lear’s The Owl and The Pussycat, The Croc and the Platypus offers an Australian version which takes in many iconic Aussie images – including the ute, Uluru, lamingtons and, of course, the animals.

This is a lively, humorous take on the original, though it isn’t necessary for children to know the Lear version in order to enjoy the fun of this new. The mismatched couple, the ochre and aqua landscapes and the fun of the word choices all make for loads of fun. Debut author Jackie Hosking makes rhyme look easy, and illustrator Marjorie Crosby-Fairall’s acrylic and pencil illustrations are a perfect complement.

Delightful fun for Aussies of all ages.


The Croc and the Platypus, by Jackie Hosking & Marjorie Crosby-Fairall
Walker Books, 2014
ISBN 9781922077608

You can see an interview with the author and illustrator here

Available from good bookstores and online.

Possum’s Big Surprise by Colin Buchanan ill Nina Rycroft

Flossy the Possum was running alone,

Scurrying, flurrying, hurrying home.

On over rock, past eucalypt tree,

Flossy the Possum was quick as can be!

When all of a sudden …

Flossy the Possum was running alone,

Scurrying, flurrying, hurrying home.

On over rock, past eucalypt tree,

Flossy the Possum was quick as can be!

When all of a sudden …

Flossy the Possum is in a big hurry to get home and she’s a tad skittish. She spies a big wrinkly claw and skitters on. Then a tall pair of fluff-covered ears. Each encounter has her skittering and flittering on until she reaches the safety of her home. When she arrives though, the biggest surprise is waiting there for her. Possum’s Big Surprise is told in rhyme with ‘When all of a sudden … ‘ set on the right hand side of openings cueing the next stage in her adventure. Illustrations are soft watercolour and reveal the animals that Flossy is spooked by.

Colin Buchanan’s experience as a songwriter is evident in Possum’s Big Surprise. The language trips and flows effortlessly across the pages, escalating the tension until Flossy is safely home. Nina Rycroft’s gentle colours and soft outlines dance across each spread. Together they have created a beautiful picture book for the very young. It introduces the Australian landscape and some of our iconic animals, in a lyrical story about things that twitch in the day. Possum, usually a night dweller, is startled by some of the creatures she encounters, providing an explanation for her skittishness. Young children love a surprise, and Possum’s Big Surprise delivers this deliciously! Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Possum’s Big Surprise, Colin Buchanan, ill Nina Rycroft Scholastic Australia 2014 ISBN: 9781742839271

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller