Eddie Frogbert by Sue deGennaro

Eddie Frogbert wasn’t like other frogs.
While all the other frogs would hippity hop around the pond, Eddie preferred to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

Eddie Frogbert keeps himself busy with plenty of different activities, like science and knitting. Everything except leaping in the pond. But, when every-hippity hopping friend he knows enters a diving competition, he wonders whether he might be a bit interested. Quietly, gently, he decides to work up to maybe, possibly, joining in. Perhaps he can join the fun. But he will do it in his own way.

Illustrations use a limited palette of blues and greens (and tiny red accents) set in blue-grey pages. Backgrounds are stripped back and include collage and drawn textures. The embossed front page with Eddie atop the diving board tower shows his apprehension and his bravery. Look out for the snail.
Eddie Frogbert is a quietly determined frog. While he enjoys his normal activity, he also wants to overcome his apprehensions about leaping and join his friends in the pond. So rather than let his fear overwhelm him, he chooses quiet moments to test himself. When his ultimate goal is beyond his reach, he stages his training to build up to it.

Told with gentle humour, Eddie’s story is one of persistence and determination, and will resonate with many young people (and not so young?) For a story-within-a-story follow the journey of the snail which begins in the front endpapers and continues throughout. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

Eddie Frogbert, Sue deGennaro
Scholastic Press 2017
ISBN: 9781760276782

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

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

Beowulf The Brave retold by Oakley Graham, ill Emi Ordás

A long time ago, before you were born,
Lived a king with a golden drinking horn.
He ruled a cold land, that was peaceful and quiet,
Until a monster called Grendel started a riot!

Grendel hated laughter and one day, at a feast,
The king and his men were attacked by the beast!
The people were terrified, the hall stood silent,
What hero could stop the monstrous tyrant?

Beowulf The Brave’ begins with a father reading a bedtime story to his son. While Dad reads, the son visualises himself as the brave Beowulf, vanquishes Grendel, then his mother, then finally a dragon, before slipping into sleep. Illustrations begin with the bedtime ritual, continue with the action ‘centre stage’ until finally returning to the bedroom as the story ends. Illustrations are digital and fantastical, as any telling of Beowulf must be.

Beowulf, a story poem known for its complexity and drama, was over 3000 lines long. It is an oral tale, not written down for many years after its creation. This version introduces Beowulf and his adventures, in a much briefer form, for a young audience that may baulk at the full story. As the story is told, the boy casts himself as Beowulf. In his imagining, he is the brave hero. ‘Beowulf The Brave’ introduces not just this epic tale, but also the tradition of storytelling that predated written language and books. Recommended for early- to mid-schoolers.

Beowulf The Brave, retold Oakley Graham ill Emi Ordás
Big Sky Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925275933

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Black Sunday, by Evan McHugh

The other thing Mrs Kearsley says you can do in a diary is write down your dreams and aspirations/ That’s even easier. I want to be a Bondi lifesaver like Grampa Jack. So, that’s my life story done. I’m goin’ down the beach.

Nipper is not impressed whn his teacher makes him keep a diary. He doesn’t want to spend his free time writing – he just wants to be at the beach. He’s even less impressed when she wants to read what he’s written, and his refusal to show her lands him in a lot of trouble.

In secret, Nipper starts preparing himself for his future career – swimming distances, imagining he’s rescuing someone. He has to wait until he’s 16 before he can get his Bronze Medallion and become part of the brigade. But one eventful day in 1938 – a day that would become known as Black Sunday – his secret is revealed in dramatic fashion.

Black Sunday is a diary format novel for primary aged readers fictionalising the events of Black Sunday, 1938 and bringing to life the Bondi of the time. Although Black Sunday is a feature, the book spans a year, so covers events both before and after the day.

Nipper is a likable narrator, and his story will appeal to middle and upper primary aged readers.

Black Sundaym by Evan McHugh
Scholastic Australia, 2016
ISBN 9781743627990

Underneath a Cow, by Carol Ann Martin & Ben Wood

We’re under a cow,
We’re under a cow,
We’re under her here
We’re under her now!

When a sudden storm hits, the animals of the farm are taken by surprise. Far from shelter, they are not sure what to do – but Madge the Cow is very calm, and very brave and she offers shelter – first to Lally the rabbit, then to Robinson the dog, Cackalina the chicken and her excited chicks and, finally, to Spike the echidna. As lightning flashes and thunder booms, Madge not only provides a hiding place for the smaller animals, she also encourages them to sing, to dsitract them from the storm.

Underneath a Cow is a quietly humorous story about friendship, safety and bravery. Madge is a gorgeous yellow cow who smiles her way through the terrible storm, seemingly happy to be a point of refuge for her diverse range of guests (though she does request that Spike be careful of her ‘dangly bits’). The other animals appreciate her care, and are grateful and even form unlikely friendships through their experience.

Young readers will love the silliness of the story and its warm demonstration of friendship, and the humour of the illustrations, rendered in mixed media inluding watercolour, pencil and digital collage.

Lots of fun.

Underneath a Cow, by Carol Ann Martin and Ben wood
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990880&

Lily the Elf: The Midnight Owl & The Precious Ring, by Anna Branford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Precious Ring (Lily the Elf)an owl is hooting.
Lily shivers with each hoot.
“Who’s awake? Who? Whoooo?” asks the midnight owl.
Lily covers her ears with her pillow.

Lile the Elf can’t sleep. SOmehwere nearby an owl is hooting. It sounds scary. In the mroning, though, Granny tells her that the owl sounds friendly. She wants to take Lily to meet him. But Lily doesn’t think she can be as brave as granny, until, with Granny’s help, she finds her own strength and makes a new friend.

The Midnight Owl is one of the new Lily the Elf series from author Anna Branford and illustrator Lisa Coutts, and is warm tale of bravery, friendship and the bond between a grandchild and grandparent.

In the second book, The Precious Ring , Lily finds a human ring in the garden near her home. Filled with water, it is just right for a paddling pool for Lily to play with. But when she realises that the ring is a much-loved possession which a human child has lost, she has to decide whetehr to keep her pool, or work to get it back to its rightful owner.

Both stories use simplle, but interesting text, with lots of illustrative support, perfect for young readers transitioning from first readers to the chapter book format. Lily is a loveable, honest and quirky character, and the relationship between her and Granny, with Dad playing a supporting role, is lovely.

The Midnight Owl ISBN: 9781925081053
The Precious Ring ISBN: 9781925081046
both by Anna Branford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts
Walker Books 2015

Hootie the Cutie by Michelle Worthington ill Giuseppe Poli

Hootie the owl lived in enchanted wood.

She had big brown eyes as wide as saucers.

Her friends called her Hootie the Cutie because

she was the smallest owl in the wood.

Hootie the owl lived in enchanted wood.

She had big brown eyes as wide as saucers.

Her friends called her Hootie the Cutie because

she was the smallest owl in the wood.

Hootie the Cutie is the smallest owl in the wood and her wise owl father is determined to keep her safe. Hootie would love to join in some of the fun things happening in her magical forest. But comes a day when even Papa Owl is stumped. Something surprising and a little worrying is happening deep in the cave. Hootie is the only one brave enough, and small enough to investigate. She finds another small magical creature who needs help. Illustrations are full warm colour with loose drawn pencil characters, while Hootie herself is prominent in pink.

Being small, and possibly also because she is female, everyone seems to think that Hootie needs protection from the rough and tumble of everyday life in a magical wood. Certainly her father does. And while his protection is well motivated, it doesn’t allow her to develop her own skills or to take her own place in her community. Hootie is determined too and when her chance come, it is Hootie who shows great bravery in face of the unknown. Recommended for young readers and those who need to know that size doesn’t necessarily preclude bravery.

Hootie the Cutie, Michelle Worthington ill Giuseppe Poli New Frontier Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781921928000

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Millie's Something Special, by Tania Cox & David Miller

Millie sighed. “How can I be brave? I’m too small to stomp and roar and my feather’s aren’t meant for flying.”

Poor Millie. A small dinosaur with a long feathery tale, she has no means of protecting herself from big, bad Reggie. Each of her friends has something special to make them feel brave. But not Millie. She doesn’t thinks he’ll ever find her something special. Until she comes across Reggie late at night and is surprised when her tail tickles him and makes him laugh. At last it seems she’s found her special skill.

Millie’s Special Something is a delightful tale about unique talents, bravery, friendship – and the fun of tickling, too. Tania Cox’ text is beautifully brought to life by the paper sculpture illustrations for which David Miller is well known, full of detail and quirkiness.

Youngsters will love the dinosaur characters, and the message is gentle. Suitable for early childhood classrooms and at home enjoyment.

Millie's Special Something

Millie’s Special Something, by Tania Cox & David Miller
Working Title Press, 2012
ISBN 9781921504389

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