Toffee Apple by Peter Combe, ill Danielle McDonald

Toffee Apple, nice and licky,
One for Judy, one for Nicky.
Crunchy munchy,
Very sticky
Don’t forget to clean your teeth!

‘Toffee Apple’ is a collection of three much-loved songs from performer Peter Combe. Here they are illustrated with bright colours, with words in larger fonts and a variety of colours. Animals dance as they eat their toffee apples, read the daily newspaper and imagine what it would be like to have six flies land on your jelly. This sturdy paperback comes with a cd of the three songs so everyone can sing along!

There is so much colour and movement in every page of ‘Toffee Apple’ that it is virtually impossible to sit still while it is read. And that’s probably the plan. Peter Combe’s songs are full of wonderful silliness designed to get children dancing about. The colourful pages and all-over-the-place text contribute to the fun. Sing along! Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Toffee Apple, Peter Combe ill Danielle McDonald
Scholastic Australia 2017 ISBN:

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

The Farmer in the Dell, sung by The Topp Twins ill Jenny Cooper

Take your partner by the hand!

The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell,

Heigh-ho, the merry-o, the farmer in the dell.

Take your partner by the hand!

The farmer in the dell, the farmer in the dell,

Heigh-ho, the merry-o, the farmer in the dell.

A worn-hat, scarf-wearing, banjo-playing dog sets the beat for ‘The Farmer in the Dell’ and one by one from farmer to cheese, the dance begins. The farmer arrives on his tractor and starts the dancing, which expands to include, wife, child, nurse, cow and other animals. Finally the mouse takes the cheese, before the banjo-playing dog finishes up with a bow. The text wanders about the page with the dancers with the chorus words hightlighted. Illustrations show each of the participants joining in, with facial expressions suggesting that there are some pairings that could be a little troublesome. Full colour pastel pages allow the action to happen in the ‘spotlight’ with backgrounds just hinted at. The Topp Twins CD includes an extended version of the song/story. A music score is on the final page.

The Farmer in the Dell is part of a series from Scholastic featuring well-known stories, songs and rhymes and which include CDs. They are wild and exuberant and a great way to introduce old favourites to a new audience. In a classroom, they offer an opportunity to connect picture books to song and movement. In fact, it’s almost impossible to sit still while reading. The illustrations depict a farming family. The ‘nurse’, who in the original singings of the song was probably a nanny, is now in a white uniform with a stethoscope and dressing scissors. Great fun for pre- and early-schoolers. Get your dancing shoes on.


The Farmer in the Dell, sung The Topp Twins ill Jenny Cooper Scholastic 2014 ISBN: 9781775431954

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Never Smile at a Crocodile, illustrated by Shane Devries

You should never smile at Mr Crocodile.

Since 1962 children have been listening, and singing along to this song, warning of the dangers of smiling at a crocodile, for fear of being eaten by him. Now Scholastic Australia, and 8llustrator Shane Devries have brought the song to life in this gorgeous hard cover picture book.

The lyrics are brought to life by three cute characters – a monkey, a rabbit and guinea pig/hamster – along with a supporting cast including frogs, elephants and more, including, of course, crocodiles. An accompanying music CD includes a recording of the song (performed by Jay Laga’aia), plus an instrumental version suitable for singing along, or classroom use.

This is gorgeous .

Never Smile at a Crocodile, by Jack Lawrence & Frank Churchill, illustrated by Shane Devries
Scholastic, 2010

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

Santa Koala, by Colin Buchanan & Glen Singleton

Santa Koala, Santa Koala
Off in a flap like a mad cockatoo…

When Santa stops to rest near an Aussie billabong, Koala and his animal friends decide they will give him a helping hand by delivering all the presents. Koala saves the day – or does he?

This funny Christmas tale/song, set to the tune of Waltzing Matilda will be sung along with and enjoyed by preschool and primary school aged children from the first reading, aided by the CD recording which accompanies it. Santa Koala is written and performed by Colin Buchanan whose previous offerings have proven popular, and illustrated with plenty of humour and colour by Glen Singleton. Great for the classroom and for gift giving.

Santa Koala: Hardcover + Music CD

Santa Koala, by Colin Buchanan & Glen Singleton
Scholastic Australia, 2010
ISBN 9781741696929

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

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, by Tom Skinner & Annie White

Rizwan is apprentice to the sorcerer owner of ‘Wizard Car and Camel Wash’. His job is to do the tidying and other menial tasks, while the sorcerer gets to cast spells and make dirty cars and camels sparkle. When Isabella, daughter to the Mayor comes in to have her car washed, Rizwan is envious. Next day, left to wash the Mayor’s race camels, he decides to cast a little spell of his own. Flush with his success, he tries another spell on the Mayor’s car. Of course this time, things do not go smoothly. In fact they go very bubbly, very bubbly indeed. Illustrations are bright and colourful with multi-hued bubbles floating throughout and in the endpapers. Included is an audio CD with the story read by Antonia Kidman and featuring the music ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’.

The Sorcerers Apprentice is the third title in the Music Box series from New Frontier Publishing. Goethe’s original poem inspired Paul Dukas’ piece of music of the same name. Tom Skinner moves the action to a magical car and camel wash, but the story is the same. An inexperienced sorcerer’s apprentice decides he can complete his chores more quickly with the use of magic. Rizwan also thinks he can attract the attention of a pretty girl. The story and the piece of music are included with the book, and give small children a chance to experience the magic that is music. Recommended for early primary readers.

The Sorcerers Apprentice

The Sorcerers Apprentice Tom Skinner Annie White
New Frontier Publishing 2010
ISBN: 9781921042096

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Sue Whiting

There are no finer candymakers in the land than Marcus and Mary. They boil and toil making all sorts of delectable delights. But when the greedy king tastes one of their sugarplums and orders fifty jars be made by sun-up, Marcus is sure they will be in trouble. There is no way they can fill the order in time. They work late into the night, but cannot fill the order. To their surprise, in the morning there are fifty jars waiting on the bench for them to deliver to the king.

When this pattern is repeated, Marcus and Mary discover they are being helped by a sugar plum fairy – and when trouble really strikes it is the sugar plum fairy who again helps them out. Mary decides it is time that she and Marcus do something to repay the fairy – and this is exactly what they do.

This absolutely gorgeous picture book is a treat as sweet as the lollies which adorn its pages. The story is delightfully reminiscent of the tale of the Elves and the Shoemaker and the illustrations are filled with colour and quirky characters. As if the story and illustrations weren’t enough, the book is accompanied by a CD featuring the story read by Antonia Kidman and a recording of Tchaikovsky’s music which is the source of inspiration for the story.

Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy is part of New frontier Publishing’s innovative Music Box series which aims to introduce children to pieces of classical music in an innovative way. Little girls will love it, and music teachers will also find the book a useful classroom tool.

Sheer delight.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, by Sue Whiting and Sarah Davis (ill)
New Frontier Publishing, 2009

Puff the Magic Dragon, by Peter Yarrow & Lenny Lipton

Known and loved around the world since it was sung by folk-supergroup Peter Paul and Mary in the 1960s, the song Puff the Magic Dragoncontinues to be loved by children and adults alike. Now it has been brought to life in a beautiful hard cover picture book with illustrations by Eric Puybaret.

The original lyrics are brought to life in vivid detail using acrylic on linen in soft hues and with a three dimensional feel. For those who remember the sad ending to the song, where Jackie Paper grows up and leaves Puff alone, the ending is a pleasant surprise, with Puybaret’s illustrations showing a new playmate coming to Honalee to play with Puff, showing the cycle of life and also, perhaps, representing the several generations who have enjoyed the song.

At the back of the book there are notes from the song’s authors, Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton, explaining how they came to write the song, and an accompanying CD features a recording of the song sung by Yarrow, his daughter Bethany and Rufus Cappadocia. There is also an instrumental version of the song, and two extra tracks, Froggie Went A-Courtin’ and The Blue Tail Fly.

This sturdy offering is a true treasure for children and adults of all ages.

Puff, the Magic Dragon with CD (Audio)

Puff, the Magic Dragon, by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton, illustrated by Eric Puybaret
Koala Books, 2007

This book is available from Fishpond . Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Requiem for a Beast, by Matt Ottley

Given that this is a large-format hardcover book with colour illustrations, one could be forgiven for momentarily thinking Requiem for a Beast is a picture book. However, any further examination quickly reveals that this offering cannot be so simply classified. Billed by the publishers as a graphic novel, Requiemis a unique blend of word, illustration and even music in a combination which almost defies description.

One of the most breathtaking aspects of this work is that it is all the work of one man – Matt Ottley who wrote the words, painted and drew the illustrations (in various media) and also composed the music on the accompanying CD (with the exception of some traditional Bundjalung songs). Together, these different forms explore different stories – that of a young man working on an outback station coming face to face with a rogue bull, the story of his childhood, and the stories of dispossessed Aboriginal people. The stories come together as the young man comes to realise that the errors of the past must be confronted before the future can be faced,.

Ottley’s full colour illustrations, using oil on canvas, oil on paper and coloured pencil include double page spread with minimal text, small cells with accompanying text, and spreads with no text and several smaller cells telling parts of the story and back story. Mythical beasts, close ups of horses and cattle, white space and more work together to create a stunning visual whole. The text is similarly diverse, from tracts of narrative, to Latin and Aboriginal language.

This is a ground-breaking work which a short review cannot do justice. It should be read and listened to and studied by all with a love of words, and art and music.


Requiem for a Beast

Requiem for a Beast, by Matt Ottley
Lothian, 2007

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

Aussie Jingle Bells, by Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland

Dashing through the bush, in a rusty Holden ute,
Kicking up the dust, esky in the boot.
Kelpie by my side, singing Christmas songs,
It’s summertime and I am in my singlet, shorts and thongs.

The words to this one will be familiar to most Australians – Aussie Jingle Bells has been sung at concerts, Christmas pageants and more for several years. Now, though, singer Colin Buchanan (who some will recognise from Playschool) teams with illustrator Nick Bland, to present the song in a hardback picturebook format, with plenty of Aussie scenery and a CD recording of the song.

This is a wonderful Christmas treat which kids and parents alike will enjoy for years.

Aussie Jingle Bells, by Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2006

Mr Froggy Went A-courtin', by James Reyne and Wendy Straw

A frog went a courtin’ and he did ride, m-hm.
A frog went a courtin’ and he did ride
a sword and a pistol by his side, m-hm.

This classic song, which will be recognised by most parents, is brought to life in this picture book edition with endearing illustrations by artist Wendy Straw and an accompanying compact disc recording, sung by Australian musician James Reyne.

This hard cover volume is sure to delight. The illustrations are lively interpretations of the lyric, with plenty of appealing animal characters. Missy Mouse attends her wedding in a fluffy pink tutu and Mr Froggy is a dashing figure in purple hat and red waistcoat.

I wondered how the artist would deal with the closing scene, given that this is intended for young children. The song, for those who don’t recall , has the wedding guests sailing off across the lake, where they are swallowed up by a big black snake. Straw’s scene shows the boat with most of its inhabitants blissfully unaware of their fate, with the exception of two startled mice who are pointing at the approaching snake with alarm. The following page, with the instruction If you want anymore you can sing it yourself depicts the cast taking a bow framed by stage curtains, leaving youngsters to think that they are all okay – it was just a song or a play. The opposite page, the book’s endpaper, is a gentle depiction of the empty rowboat adrift on the lake

The accompanying CD features Reyne singing the song, in a lively performance accompanied by acoustic guitar. Kids will be able to sing along, and may choose to use the book to learn the lyrics.

A cute interpretation.

Mr Froggy Went A-courtin’, by James Reyne and Wendy Straw
Brolly Books, 2006