Dingo, by Claire Saxby & Tannya Harricks

Can you see her?
There – deep in the stretching shadows – a dingo.
Her pointed ears twitch.
Her tawny eyes flash in the low-slung sun.

It is dusk, and Dingo is awake, ready to hunt to feed her cubs. As she moves through the landscape, the reader learns about this dingo and, through her, the dingo species.

Dingo, part of the Nature Storybooks series from Walker Books, is a sumptuous picture book offering. The text is lyrical, pacing across the pages like Dingo paces across the landscape. The illustrations, in layered oil paintings, are rich and wild, matching the subject matter perfectly. Short factoids on each spread, in a different font, give the reader further detail about the species.

Perfect for young animal lovers to enjoy on their own, Dingo will also be a valuable classroom and library addition.

Dingo, by Claire Saxby & Tanya Harricks
Walker Books, 2018
ISBN 9781925381283

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris

Deep in the forest where sundrops spill
a bird sends seeds to the floor.

Over the seas, a bird drops a seeds which sprouts and, slowly, grows into a tree. When that tree is felled it becomes, in turn, part of a ship bearing convicts, then a frame for a weaving loom and, eventually, part of a lean-to. When the lean-to is abandoned the wood lies dormant until a crafter finds it and from it carves a wooden bird.

This beautiful story shows the journey of one tree, with the use of the bird at the beginning and end drawing an elegant circle which even young children will connect with. The repurposing of the wood from convict bunk to loom to building material to carving material connects history with the growing contemporary re-awakening of the importance of recycling and upcycling.

The poetic text is simple, and a delight to read aloud, and Harris’s illustrations make stunning use of light and perspective.

A delight for a home library as well as a useful classroom read.

Bird to Bird, by Claire Saxby & Wayne Harris
Black Dog, 2018
ISBN 9781925381122

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

My Name is Lizzie Flynn, by Claire Saxby & Lizzy Newcomb

All I own in this world is my name: Lizzie Flynn. 
It’s all I take with me as we are hustled aboard the Rajah, a cargo of convict women.

Convict Lizzie Flynn is leaving London, bound for Van Diemen’s Land. All she owns is her name. When the women on the boat are given sewing materials to make a quilt, she is reluctant. She doesn’t know how to sew. But Molly encourages and teaches her, and soon Lizzie a part of the sewing group. By the time the boat reaches Australia, the women of the Rajah, have completed a beautiful quilt and Lizzie has new skills and new friends, though sadly her friend Molly has not survived the journey.

My Name is Lizzie Flynn: A Story of the Rajah Quilt is a beautiful historical picture book, fictionalising the story of the Rajah Quilt, made by convict women in 1841 and now housed in the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.

Saxby has a skill for creative nonfiction, and her text manages to convey both the emotions of Lizzie and her fellow travellers, and the essence of the era of convict transportation. The acrylic illustrations again capture the mood, with the drab colours onboard the ship in contrast with the e blues of the seas and sky beyond. In the scenes of land a clever contrast is created by portraying England in grey tones as the women leave it behind and Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) with rolling green hills, and gently colourful houses suggesting a level of hope.

A beautiful book, suitable for school and home

My Name is Lizzie Flynn: A Story of the Rajah Quilt, by Claire Saxby & Lizzy Newcomb
Walker Books, 2015

Available from good bookstores and online.

Meet the ANZACS, by Claire Saxby & Max Berry

ANZAC is the name given to the Australian and New Zealand troops who landed at Gallipoli in World War I. ANZAC is now a symbol of bravery and mateship. this is the story of how the ANZAC legend began.

With 2014 marking the centenary of the First World War, and with ANZAC Day just a couple of months away, the release of Meet the ANZACs is timely. Part of the Meet… series, this offering varies from earlier titles in the series in that it focusses on a group rather than on a single individual. This works wonderfully, with author Saxby developing a sense of who the men were who together created the legend. In a relatively few words we learn of the motivations of those who joined up, their dreams and expectations, the training and difficulties they endure, and their feelings they await their first deployment on Gallipoli.

Illustrations, by Max Berry, complement the story, with changes in perspective and focus capturing the range of scenes from bush and city in Australia, to the deserts of Cairo and the landing at Gallipoli. In keeping with the story the illustrations depict a range of men, giving some sense of the range of different backgrounds and ages of the soldiers.

As with all books in this series, back of book timeline provides a more comprehensive overview, in this case of the passage of the First World War.

Meet the ANZACs provides a wonderful introduction to the soldiers who forged the ANZAC legend and, as such, is perfect for classroom use but equally appropriate for home reading.

Meet the ANZACs (Meet...)


Meet the ANZACs, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Max Berry
Random House, 2014
ISBN 9780857981929

Available from good bookstores and online.

Disclaimer: The reviewer has also contributed to the ‘Meet’ series, having authored an earlier title in the series. The review was written with every attempt to consider this title independently.

Seadog, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tom Jellett

Our dog is not a trick dog,
a sit-still-then-roll-over dog.
Our dog is a seadog,
a jump-and-chase-the=waves dog.

Seadog is not well-trained, well groomed, trip-performing dog. Instead he is a fun lvng puppy who loves the sea and everything about it: the sounds, the sights and even – perhaps especially – the smells. And it is the smells that get him in trouble, because after he rolls in smelly fish he has to be taken home and washed. Seadog does not like the suds and water of a bath but he endures it, and is soon clean and fluffy – but only until someone opens the door.

Seadog is a delightful romp of a tale about a dog who loves the sea. In turn he is loved by his family and will be loved by young readers. The text is rhythmic and uses repetition, alliteration and internal rhymes to create something fun to read and to listen to. Kids will love joining in, especially on repeat readings, which will be in demand. Illustrations, by Tom Jellett, are a delight, and the big red Seadog comes to life against sandy yellows and watery blues which really capture the feel of the beach.

Perfect for early childhood, this is a book which warms the heart with its zest for life.


Seadog, by Claire Saxby and Tom Jellett
Random House, 2013
ISBN 9781742756509

Available from good bookstores and online.

Meet My Book: Sea Dog, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Tom Jellett

I’m loving having Aussie authors drop in to tell us all about their latest book. Today I’m especially pleased to welcome my friend, and wonderful children’s author Claire Saxby.Claire is here to tell us all about her beautiful new book, Sea Dog. Over to you, Claire.

1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.

Seadog, illustrated by Tom Jellett, Random House. Release date was 1 May.


2. Why did you write the book?

I’ve always wanted to write a book about a dog, but even though we’ve had one for the past 6 years, it has taken until recently to find a way to do it. I wanted to capture the boundless joy that dogs seem to have for life. They don’t always do what we might like them to do, but there’s something about they way they are at the beach that is so free. I think children are the same, particularly at the beach. The beach is calming, energising, fun, messy, and hot/cold. And joyful.

3. How long from idea to publication?

This was a short one by picture book standards. I think it was less than two years from concept (in this form) to release. Although I confess to multiple previous attempts that fizzled before even becoming complete horrible first drafts.

4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?

Trusting myself. Letting go and just having fun with it. Getting close in, getting far enough away from the facts to find the fiction.

5. Coolest thing about your book?

To share the joy that a dog can bring. Tom’s illustrations are amazing. Seadog is so expressive.

6. Something you learnt through writing the book?

Not so much learnt but reinforced how much fun there is in playing with words.

7. What did you do celebrate the release?

I’ve had a ‘coastal launch’ for Seadog, but the official launch is yet to come. That’s 2 June at the 10th Williamstown Literary Festival. 2 pm. All welcome. 🙂

8. And how will you promote the book?

I’ve a few school visits planned, I’ll visit bookshops and libraries for story time. I’m also doing some promotion online via my blog.

9. What are you working on next?

I can’t quite decide. I have several projects I’d like to tackle, just can’t decide which one …

10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?

At my website www.clairesaxby.com, or my blog www.letshavewords.blogspot.com. Seadog can be seen in bookshops EVERYWHERE!

Thanks for dropping in, Claire. It’s always a pleasure to chat with you.

There Was an Old Sailor, by Claire Saxby & Cassandra Allen

There was an old sailor
who swallowed a krill
I don’t know why
he swallowed the krill
It’ll make him ill

So begins this delightful rhyming picture offering, a nautical twist on the old rhyme There was an Old Woman, which sees the sailor eat his way through a host of ocean dwelling critters, from the tiny krill, to a fish, a ray, and even a whale.

Young readers will love the silliness of the tale, and be able to join in the repetitive rhyme. They’ll also be surprised by the ending, which adults may also approve of, because unlike the traditional rhyme, in this one the eater does not end up dead.

The illustrations, in richly muted ocean tones, are beautiful, with lots of comical touches. The sailor’s expressions are especially humorous and endearing. Back of book fishy facts provide a gently educational touch.

This is a gorgeous hard cover offering which will sit well in libraries and classroom collections, but be just as loved and treasured at home.

There Was an Old Sailor

There Was an Old Sailor, by Claire Saxby and Cassandra Allen
Walker Books, 2010

This book can be purchased online from (the appropriately named bookstore) Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Sheep, Goat and the Creaking Gate, by Claire Saxby & Judith Rossell

Sheep lived in a grassy green paddock complete with everything a happy, contented sheep could possibly want. But sheep wasn’t happy. Or content. In Sheep’s paddock, there was no Jellagong tree.

Sheep is happy living in her paddock until she notices the Jellagong tree in Goat’s paddock. Goat tells her the leaves of the Jellagong tree are delicious – and Sheep wants desperately to taste them for herself. But Goat won’t give her any and fiercely guards the creaking gate between the two paddocks. Finally, Sheep comes up with a plan to trick Goat into letting her in – only to find out that the Jellagong Tree isn’t as good as it looks.

Sheep Goat and the Creaking Gate is a gently humorous look at the nature of happiness, exploring the theme of the grass is always greener in a way which will make youngsters giggle whilst giving a subtle message about being satisfied with what you have.

Judith Rossell’s illustrations are delightful, using bold greens, blues and yellows to offset the white sheep and brown and white goat, as well as little collage embellishments.

This is a beautiful offering which will be treasured by children and parents.

Sheep Goat and the Creaking Gate

Sheep Goat and the Creaking Gate, by Claire Saxby and Judith Rossell
Windy Hollow Books, 2009

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

A Nest for Kora, by Claire Saxby

Reviewed by Jackie Hosking

A Nest for Korais a picture story book about a safe place to fall. Its subtle message shows that from firm foundations, namely Kora’s Granny, Kora is able to explore and experience things without fear. Kora, like any youngster, is out to amaze the world with her first egg. Granny is keen to share her own experience with Kora who is determined that her first egg-laying is going to be very different.

Kora searches the farmyard looking for the perfect place for her nest, refusing to listen to Granny’s advice. It’s not until she is sitting in her perfect nest does she realise that sometimes perfect is not perfect at all. Back in the hen house surrounded by family and friends Kora lays her first egg and everyone agrees that it is a very fine egg indeed.

A Nest for Kora is a simple while important story about the importance of family, told with the help of Judith Rossell’s E. H. Shepard – like (of Winnie the Pooh fame) illustrations.

A Nest for Kora, by Claire Saxby Illustrated by Judith Rossell
Windy Hollow Books, 2007
ISBN 9781921136030

This review first appeared in Pass it On Newsletter. It is reprinted here with permission.