Koala, by Claire Saxby & Julie Vivas

In a high tree fork, a grey ball unfurls. Tall as a toddler, a dozy young koala sniffs at leaves. … Climb, little Koala,
it’s dinner time.

Following the adventures of one young koala as it becomes time for him to separate from his mother and find his own way in the world, Koala is a wonderful blend of narrative and fact. Koala must overcome hunger, predators, natural disasters, and even other koalas before, finally, he finds a new home where he can live safely.

Part of the wonderful nature Storybooks series, Koala uses narrative non-fiction to trace the life of a fictional koala, grounded in fact, and supported on each spread by additional facts. The text is lyrical, making it accessible and a joy to read, and the illustrations, by one of Australia’s best-loved illustrators, Julie Vivas, are superb.

A must have for Australian homes and classrooms, Koala is also sure to be enjoyed by overseas audiences.

Koala, by Claire Saxby & Julie Vivas
Walker Books, 2017
ISBN 978192512639

Eric the Postie, by Matt Shanks

The post office didn’t hire echidnas
(or any other animals for that matter).
But this wouldn’t stop Eric.
he would do anything to fulfil his dream!

Eric knows he could be the best postman ever – he can stay dry, avoid dogs, lick the envelopes, and even help open letters. If only he had some mail to deliver. But, no matter the obstale, Eric is determined to follow his dreams.

Eric the Postie is a delightful picture book about following dreams, even if they are big and you are little. Young readers will enjoy both the silliness of an echidna wanting to be a postman, and the rightness of the solution.  the illustrations, in watercolour with  white backgrounds, are gorgeous in their apparent simplicity.

Suitable for at home reading or sharing at school, Eric the Postie will also appeal to adult readers.

Eric the Postie, by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811931

 

Twinkle , Twinkle, Little Star, illustrated by Matt Shanks

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

There is no doubting the popularity of classic nursery rhyme brought to life in this book, though probably many readers will be surprised at the number of verses, some of which may be less familiar. But it is the way it is brought to life in the adorable illustrations which make this version so appealing. Olive the owl (named only in the blurb), flies across the darkening landscape, delivering books (each adorned with a star) to her sleepy friends – a flock of sheep, a family of wombats, even a human child – before returning home to read to her three owlets.

The gentle blues and purples of the night skies, together with the expressive, sweet faced animals and the familiar text make this an ideal bedtime or rest time offering.

Lovely.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, illustrated by Matt Shanks
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781760158668

One Keen Koala, by Margaret Wild & Bruce Whatley

ONE keen koala
ready for school.

One keen koala is ready for his first day of school. hH is joined by two perky penguins, three excited wallabies and so on, as they discover the fun of starting school. From posing for photographs, to meeting the teacher, to playing with paint and glue, having stories and, at the end of the day hurrying home to mum, the animals romp through the day.

With rhyming text by Margaret Wild and joy-filled watercolour and pencil illustrations by Bruce Whatley, this is an offering sure to be embraced by youngsters starting school, and their parents. It will withstand repeated rereadings, and the simplicity of the text will encourage children to join in on rereadings.

Lovely.

One Keen Koala, by Margaret Wild & Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743629291

Mopoke, by Philip Bunting

This is a mopoke.

So begins this delightful, understated picture book featuring (as the title suggests) a mopoke – or  bookbook owl. Each spread features just one line of text – or even a single word, as the mopoke becomes a poorpoke, a poshpoke, and a range of rhyming ‘pokes’ – slowpoke, yopoke, crowpoke and so on. By the end of the book, the mopoke begins to look bothered, before squawking (hooting?) in frustration and flying away. Apparently, what the mopoke wants – peace and quite – is not going to be found on this branch.

The illustrations, on black backgrounds representing the night sky, are simple, with the mopoke seated on a single branch, a few stars in the background, and occasional appearances from other animals, including other mopokes and – surprisingly – a wombat, the surprise of which will make youngsters laugh.

Adult readers should find the repetition and simplicity  of the text an opportunity to use expression and encourage child participation. Creator Philip Bunting has written about this on his website.

Lots of fun.

Mopoke, by Philip Bunting
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781742991658

Available from good bookstores or online.

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

The Snow Wombat, by Susannah Chambers & Mark Jackson

Snow on the stockman’s hut
Snow on the crows
Snow on the woollybutt
Snow on my … NOSE!

A little wombat takes a stroll across the winter landscape of Australia’s High Country watching the snow on the animals, birds, people and plants – and on himself as well. The snow is fun, but Wombat is happy to snuggle down for a sleep in the only place with no snow – his burrow.


The Snow Wombat
is a beautiful picture book featuring gentle rhyming text and divine watercolour and ink outline illustrations. T

The story is simple, with youngsters likely to predict the rhymes on early readings and subsequently remember and join in. Adults shouldn’t mind the repeated rereadings, with the rhyme scanning well. The illustrations bring he winter landscape to life, with the wombat being particularly delightful.

Gorgeous.


The Snow Wombat
, by Susannah Chambers & Mark Jackson
Allen & Unwin, 2016
ISBN 9781760113810

Don't Call Me Bear, by Aaron Blabey

But if I got a dollar
every time you called me ‘bear’,
I tell you what – and no mistake –
I’d be a MILLIONAIRE.

Koala has had enough. Ever since European explorers first visited Australia, he has been called a bear. And he’s sick of it. If those first explorers ahd done their research, they’d have known that koalas, like kangaroos and wombats, are marsupials.

Don’t Call Me Bear! is a humorous rhyming picture book about Koala’s frustration. There is a gently educational element, but really the focus is on humour, especially with the other marsupials concluding the book by telling Koala that he looks like a bear.

From the creator of books such as Pig the Pug and Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, will be similarly enjoyed.

Don’t Call Me Bear!, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760159849

Stripes in the Forest: The Story of the Last Wild Thylacine by Aleesah Darlison and Shane McGrath

I am the last of my kind.

This I know.

Once, we roamed the land.

We owned the land.

We called it Home.

I am the last of my kind.

This I know.

Once, we roamed the land.

We owned the land.

We called it Home.

Stripes in the Forest is told in first person from the perspective of the last remaining Thylacine. Her story begins as she first encounters man. She watches cautiously and with growing concern as the white man and his firesticks decimate not just Thylacine populations but those of other native animals. She retreats to more remote forest to keep her young safe. When at last they are ready to leave her, she worries about their survival. There is a note of hope at the end that somewhere, deep in the forests, other Thylacines endure. A final page offers Thylacine facts. Illustrations offer a lush world full of hiding places for animals fleeing white men. Extras include a faux sticker that reminds the reader that it is 80 years since the Thylacine was rendered extinct.

Stripes in the Forest: The Story of the Last Wild Thylacine is a chilling and compelling story. Words and images work together well to evoke both the silence and voice of this final Thylacine. The brief text allows the reader to immerse themselves in the story and to ‘walk’ with the animals. Stripes in the Forest provides rich material for discussion at home and in the classroom and the note of hope invites speculation about if and where survivors may be hiding. A thoughtful blend of fact and fiction. Recommended for lower primary readers.

Stripes in the Forest: The Story of the Last Wild Thylacine, Aleesah Darlison ill Shane McGrath
Big Sky Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925275711

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com