How to Bee, by Bren MacDibble

Sometimes bees get too big to be up in the branches. Sometimes they fall and break their bones. This week both happened, and foreman said, ‘Tomorrow we’ll find two new bees.”

With real bees extinct, Peony wants nothing more than to be one of the human bees – children who climb the trees in the orchard and pollinate the flowers by hand, so that the rich people in the city can eat fruit. It’s not an easy life, scratching out a living on the farm, with her sister and grandfather, but at least the foreman makes sure they have food, and Gramps makes sure they have love.  But Peony’s ma wants her to come and live in the city, and won’t take no for an answer.

How to Bee is a moving novel set in a dystopian near-future of haves and have-nots impacted by the extinction of bees and other changes. Peony is feisty, an intriguing blend of innocence and worldliness. Good-hearted, she is torn by loyalty to her mother and the new friend she makes in the city, and her love of the rest of her family and of life in the country.

The premise is both intriguing and important – with the world’s bees declining in numbers – and readers will cheer for Peony as she makes her way through some really difficult times, helping others along the way.

How to Bee, by Bren MacDibble
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760294335

Noisy Nights, by Fleur McDonald & Annie White

The animals on Farmer Hayden’s farm talked a lot at night.
The crickets chirped.
The dogs barked.
The cow moo-ed
and the sheep maa-ed.

With all the animals on the farm making so much noise every night, Farmer Hayden is struggling to get any sleep. He calls out to the animals to be quiet – but it’s no good, because they are making so much noise they can’t hear him. Finally, on the verge of giving up, Farmer Hayden goes outside to sit on his verandah. As he looks out across the farm., he sees his sheep jumping a fence. he starts to count them. Soon, Farmer Hayden and all the animals are fast asleep.

Noisy Nights is a humorous picture book title featuring lots of farm favourites, and noises which youngsters will enjoy echoing. The solution, too, will bring smiles, with its play on the old idea of counting sheep to get to sleep.

The illustrations, using water colour with pencil outlines are also filled with gentle humour.

Lots of fun.

Noisy Nights, by Fleur McDonald & Annie White
New Frontier, 2016
ISBN 9781925059663

Together Always, by Edwina Wyatt & Lucia Masciullo

When Pig got lost, Goat found the way.
When Goat felt giddy, Pig told a story.
‘We will stick together,’ said Goat.together always cover
‘Always?’
‘Always.’

Pig and Goat live together in the orchard, doing everything together. They are happy and pledge to be together, always. But one night the orchard gate swings open and Goat wants to go and explore. Pig isn’t so sure, but follows for a while. When he decides he wants to go home, Goat doesn’t want to come. As they spend months apart, the pair each remembers their absent friend. When Goat can’t sleep, he hums just like Pig used to do, and when Pig gets lost, he finds the way like Goat used to. Finally, though, Goat comes home and there is joyful reunion, after which they live together again, except for occasional separations, during which they still think of each other.

Together Always is a wonderful exploration of friendship and the way it survives absence and separation. It is also a reminder that friends can be different and have separate interests, and still be close to each other. Of course, it is also simply a moving, fun story with a touch of whimsy.

The illustrations, in watercolour with pencil outlines on lovely cream pages, use rich pastel colours and quirky details but, of course, it is Pig and Goat themselves who are the most delightful.

A beautiful tribute to friendship.

Together Always, by Edwina Wyatt & Lucia Masciullo
Little Hare, 2016
ISBN 9781742979632

My Dog Bigsy, by Alison Lester

Book Cover:  My Dog BigsyThis is my dog, Bigsy.
He sleeps on my bed every night
and he hardly makes a sound.
But when Dad lets him out in the morning,
I hear him barking all around the farm.

Most of the time Bigsy the dog is quiett, but first thing in the morning he runs around the farm and barks at everything. He chases the cockatoos out of the orchard. They squawk and screech as they flee. Then he sends the kangaroos bouncing away from the farm, before greeting the horses, cows, ducks and more. Finally, though, he heads home for breakfast, and – exhausted from all that action – another sleep.

My Dog Bigsy is a delightful celebration of playful dogs, farm life, and noise. Youngsters will soon be joining in with the squawks, neighs and quacks, and everyone will fall in love with orange and white Bigsy. The design of the book is also to love, with the tactile canvas feel cover echoed in the green linen hills of the outside scenes, against which Bigsy and the other animals are collaged.

Perfect for early childhood readers and dog lovers of all ages, My Dog Bigsy is adorable.

My Dog Bigsy, by Alison Lester
Penguin, 2015
ISBN 9780670078936

Hush Little Possum: An Australian Lullaby, by P. Crumble and Wendy Binks

Hush, Little PossumHush, little possum, don’t you cry,
Mama will keep you safe and dry.

As the sky rumbles, rain falls and the wind bangs sheds and sways trees, Mama Possum hastens to reassure and protect her baby, singing her a lullaby to let her know she will keep her safe and warm.

To the tune of ‘Hush, Little Baby’ Hush, Little Possum gives an Australian twist to the old favourite, brought to life in adorable illustrations by Wendy Binks. The big-eyed possums traverse stormy farm scenes, with appearances by other animals – both wild and farm animals –  giving lots for youngsters to spot and enjoy.

The hard cover picture book is accompanied by a recording of the song, sung by Deborah Mailman, as well as an instrumental version for singing along.

A cute offering for preschoolers.

Hush, Little Possum, by P. Crumble & Wendy Binks
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743626436

Available from good bookstores and online.