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

Cyclone, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

Outside, a giant
groans and growls.
A wind that
batters
shrieks
and howls.
A crack,
A lurch,
our house
is torn
Ripped
to paper
by the storm.

On Christmas Eve in 1974, Cyclone Tracy destroyed most of the city of Darwin, with houses ripped apart and families fighting for their lives as they sought shelter. Christmas Day revealed the extent of the damage and, in the days that followed, families were separated as most were evacuated until it was safe to return. While other cyclones and storms have hit Australia before and since, the scale of Cyclone Tracy and the damage she wrought, nothing has matched the scale of that storm – with 71 people killed, 41 000 left homeless and 80 percent of the homes destroyed.

Cyclone tells the story of that night from the perspective of a child who, initially, is sure that nothing is going to spoil Christmas, until s/he is woken in the night by Dad, who ushers his family out of their disintegrating house to hide under their brick barbecue. The rhyming text gathers the momentum of the storm – starting and finishing calmly but with pace and fury in the middle, and the chaos reflected by short line breaks.
The illustrations too, match the text with brooding skies in the early spreads, lightening slightly to illuminate the chaos of the storm, then brighter in the pages that follow. The use of muted tones and washes reflects both the tone of events and the photography of the 1970s which was used as reference material.

From the team who previously produced Fire and Flood, Cyclone is another outstanding offering.

Cyclone, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743623596

My First Day at School, by Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley

On my first day…

From dressing themselves, to eating breakfast, meeting new friends, counting, playing and even home time, My First Day at School takes youngsters through fairly typical things that happen on the first day of school. The use of a range of animal characters adds humour and interest. The character on the spread with the line “I dress myself”, for example, is a centipede, sporting brightly patterned socks on each of its numerous feet. Other spreads feature rabbits, dogs, owls, a rhino and more.

This use of the animal characters to illustrate what is very simple text does not remove it too far from children’s experience and the use of both familiar and less familiar animals – including a sloth, a puffin and a tapir (?) – creates room for discussion both about what is happening at school and about the animals themselves.

Perfect for a young child starting school, My First Day at School is a treasure from one of Australia’s bets loved creative teams in Bruce Whatley and Rosie Smith.

My First Day at School, by Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743622964

Fire, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

One small spark brought fire awake
Winding like a small black snake.
Fire flickered, fire crept
Flames snickered, bushfire leapt.

A fire starts small but quickly grows, spreading across the landscape, lighting up the trees, the sky – and even houses. People flee as fire fighters battle to bring the monster under control. Afterwards, there is sorrow at the devastation, but there is also hope, as comfort is spread by friends and by strangers, and by signs of life returning.

Fire is a wonderful picture book collaboration form the team which also produced Flood. Jackie French and Bruce Whatley. The rhyming text seems to echo the actions of the fire, taking the reader n a breathless journey through the smoke and ash and beyond to the gradual restoration of calm. The illustrations capture the mood of the fire, as well as the contrasting landscape before and after.

A wonderful way to open up discussion about the impact of bushfire, both for those who have experienced it and those who haven’t.

 

Fire, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Scholastic Press, 2014
ISBN 9781742838175

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom, by Phillip Gwynne & Bruce Whatley

There once was a queen, a beautiful and clever queen, who was loved throughout her land.
But when she looked in the mirror, when she wriggled her hips, her bottom wobbled just like a raspberry jelly.

No matter what the Royal Lady-In-Waiting tells her, the Queen is sure that her people can’t possibly love her, because of her big wobbly bottom. So she offers ever increasing rewards for whoever can solve the problem of the royal wobble. But it’s hard – the royal beautician can’t fix it, the royal inventor can’t fix it, even the royal fitness instructor can’t do it. The Queen is about to despair, until the Poet offers a solution. The Queen doesn’t think it will work but, encourage by her Lady-In-Waiting she gives it a go. The Poet doesn’t fix the wobble but, after writing her poems of praise each day for thirty days, he fixes her self-perception. The Queen realises, at last, that she is loved, wobbly bottom or not.

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom is a delightful, humours picture book story about self-confidence, wobbly bottoms and the value of good poetry. The message is strong, but there’s no need for it to be hammered, because the humour and simplicity of the solution says it all.The illustrations show the cleverness we have come to expect from much-loved illustrator Bruce Whatley, with the Queen portrayed as a abuetifully round and regal hippopotamus, and her Lady-In-Waiting a clever-looking mouse, with the other court members a delightful array of animals.

This is a picture book which youngsters will love both for the tale and for the chance to explore the illustrations, and educators and parents will also love the message. Poets (and lovers of poetry) will also adore that it is poetry that saves the day!

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom

The Queen with the Wobbly Bottom, by Phillip Gwynne & Bruce Whatley
Litte Hare, 2012
ISBN 9781921714597

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Tin Toys, by Bruce Whatley & Ben Smith Whatley

As Christmas nears, the toy shop is filled with shiny new toys, which are quickly sold. But on the top shelf sits a wind-up toy, The Space Ride. The newer toys aren’t impressed with the Space Ride, but some of the older toys remember it and long to see it working again.

The older toys had not  forgotten the Space Ride. Buster could remember the first time he saw it in action. It whirred and whizzed, ready for take-off. It was magnificent.

As Christmas nears, the toy shop is filled with shiny new toys, which are quickly sold. But on the top shelf sits a wind-up toy, The Space Ride. The newer toys aren’t impressed with the Space Ride, but some of the older toys remember it and long to see it working again. They set out o find the missing key which will start the Space Ride, and to prove to the newer toys just how exciting an old toy can be. Finding the key to wind Space Ride up is difficult, but finally they do it – in spite of disturbing the poor Shopkeeper. When they do wind the ride up there is surprise in store. Although the Space Ride isn’t quite as exciting as the old toys had remembered, everyone has the best Christmas Eve ever.

Tin Toys is fabulous picture book for Christmas or any time of the year, about friendship, adventure and fun. A collaboration between author/illustrator Bruce Whatley and his adult son, the digital illustrations have a three dimensional feel similar to animation in films such as Toy Story. Particularly pleasing is the use of different perspectives so that scenes which could have been visually repetitive given the small setting of a toy shop, are viewed from different angles.

A delight.

Tin Toys

Tin Toys, by Bruce Whatley & Ben Smith Whatley
Random House, 2011
ISBN 9781864719918

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Flood, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

In January 2011 much of Queensland and parts of NSW were subjected to terrible flooding. the rest of Australia – and the world – watched in horror at the destruction and loss of life. In Floodthe team of Jackie French and Bruce Whatley capture those times in words and pictures accessible to children.

The rain stopped, but the wall of water surged into the river. Hour by hour the river rose. In some places water only nibbled at the bank, but in others it burst across the river bends…up into the streets. It sounded like a helicopter.
It sounded like a flood.

In January 2011 much of Queensland and parts of NSW were subjected to terrible flooding. the rest of Australia – and the world – watched in horror at the destruction and loss of life. In Floodthe team of Jackie French and Bruce Whatley capture those times in words and pictures accessible to children.

The text explains the flood – its origins, its sights and sounds – and specific instances of heroism, such as the tugboat driver who stopped the boardwalk from doing further harm. The illustrations highlight the damage and desolation with watery browns and blues, as well as the courage and heroism of volunteers working int he midst of the floods. The image of a dog as a watcher, and participant, in many spreads gives youngsters a character to empathise with.

French and Whatley have teamed together on brighter subjects before – most famously the. Exploration of such a serious topic required a different approach, and Wahtley’s use of different drawing and painting techniques helped here. Whatley has used his non-dominant hand for the images and his use of acrylic washes highlights the feeling of wetness.

Profits from the sale of Flood are being donated to the Qld Premier’s Disaster Relief appeal.

Flood

Flood, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2011
ISBN 9781742830728

This book is avaialable in good bookstores or through Fishpond.

The Little Refugee, by Anh Do & Suzanne Do

The Little Refugee is a beautiful, important picture book, telling of one family’s refugee experience. Aimed at primary school readers, it tells Do’s story in simple language using details which children will connect with -t he fear of being in a leaky boat out at sea, the humour of his younger brother being dressed as a girl, the difficulties of making new friends and the pride of being chosen as class captain.

‘What a great country!’ my parents said to each other when we arrived in Australia.

In this first person narrative, Ahn Do tells readers about his early years in “a faraway country called Vietnam” where his family was poor but happy – thirteen people living in a tiny three room house. He then tells of the dangers the men of the family faced staying in Vietnam, and their subsequent journey to Australia in “an old wooden fishing boat that stank of fish”. He also shares details of the family’s new life here in Australia, finishing on the upbeat note of Anh’s election as class captain at his new primary school.

The Little Refugee is a beautiful, important picture book, telling of one family’s refugee experience. Aimed at primary school readers, it tells Do’s story in simple language using details which children will connect with -t he fear of being in a leaky boat out at sea, the humour of his younger brother being dressed as a girl, the difficulties of making new friends and the pride of being chosen as class captain.

Illustrations, by Bruce Whatley use ink outlines and a mix of warm pastel colours for the pages in Australia and sepia tones for the spreads set in Vietnam and aboard the boat, creating a visual contrast between the parts of Do’s life.

Do’s earlier autobiography aimed at adults, The Happiest Refugee has received many accolades. The Little Refugee provides a wonderful means of sharing his story with a younger audience and in highlighting the refugee experience more generally.

The Little Refugee
The Little Refugee, by Ahn Do & Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
Allen & Unwin, 2011
ISBN 9781742378329

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Nog and the Land of Noses, by Bruce Whatley

Nog has a pretty fine looking nose, reader’s will note, if size has any bearing. But Nog’s nose doesn’t do anything special. Everybody else in the land of Nog has a special nose which does something special – whether it’s a fat nose for sheltering others from rain, or a long nose for picking fruit, or even a nose for balancing things on. But Nog’s nose does nothing – it just sits there on his face.

In the land of noses everyboydy’s nose was different and everybody had a nose that did something special.
Except for Nog.

Nog has a pretty fine looking nose, reader’s will note, if size has any bearing. But Nog’s nose doesn’t do anything special. Everybody else in the land of noses has a special nose which does something special – whether it’s  a fat nose for sheltering others from rain, or a long nose for picking fruit, or even a nose for balancing things on. But Nog’s nose does nothing – it just sits there on his face. Nog’s grandmother has been saying since he was a baby that he has a ‘nose for trouble’ but nobody understands what that means – until Nog smells an approaching pepper storm one day, and saves the whole land from being exposed – because in a land of spectacular noses, nothing could be worse than a pepper storm!

Nog and the Land of Noses is recognisably a Bruce Whatley offering – whimsical, funny, yet subtly ‘right’ in its message that everyone has a purpose or talent. Whilst Nog hasn’t discovered his nose’s specialness, it seems more to worry him than it does those around him, so this is not so much a story of being accepted as it is a tale of self-acceptance and discovering one’s self worth.

Whatley’s illustrations are, as always, a delight, with the whimsy of fantastically shaped noses complemented by fantastically shaped owners of those noses – some are bird like, others  more like moles or elephants, but all beautifully rendered so that each character is distinct. The colour palette is a kind of gentle fruit salad , with lots of white space so the focus is on those characters.

This is laugh out loud funny and will bear repeated readings.

Nog and the Land of Noses

Nog and the Land of Noses, by Bruce Whatley
Scholastic Press, 2011
ISBN 978174169809

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Christmas Wombat, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

It’s Christmas Eve. Mothball the wombat has no idea what Christmas is, or why there are strange, annoying dangly things hanging on the tree but she does know the smell of carrots, her favourite food. When she finds strange creatures are eating her carrots, she fights a battle of wills. Soon, though, her quest for carrots and a comfortable place to sleep sees her taking an unexpected sleigh ride around the world…

Strange creatures are eating my carrots!

It’s Christmas Eve. Mothball the wombat has no idea what Christmas is, or why there are strange, annoying dangly things hanging on the tree but she does know the smell of carrots, her favourite food. When she finds strange creatures are eating her carrots, she fights a battle of wills. Soon, though, her quest for carrots and a comfortable place to sleep sees her taking an unexpected sleigh ride around the world.

Christmas Wombat is a wonderfully quirky Christmas picture book starring Mothball, the wombat who first starred in Diary of a Wombat. Text is funny and simple, from Mothball’s point of view and readers left to make their connections about what is happening. The reindeer (the aforementioned strange creatures) are delightful, but of course Mothball is the star of this book – and readers will love her.

A perfect Christmas gift for readers young and old.

Christmas Wombat

Christmas Wombat, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley
Angus & Robertson, 2011
ISBN 9780732291716

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.