A Year with Marmalade, by Alison Reynolds & Heath McKenzie

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

A Year with Marmalade

This is a delightful picture book about friendship. Two girls Ella and Maddy are best friends. That is until Maddy has to go away for a year and asks Ella to take care of Marmalade, her cat. Both Marmalade, the cutest orange cat you could ever wish to see, and Ella are sad at the parting.

Anyone who has ever had a best friend who went away will be able to associate with the feelings conveyed. It made me think of a best friend who went away when I was young and I’m sure it will evoke similar memories in readers young and old.

Through the changing seasons which are beautifully depicted in text and illustrations, we see Ella’s feelings about the loss but then something starts to change. I’m not going to give the ending away by saying what that is, but let me say it is a satisfactory ending.

The text is simple and flows well with a great deal of expression and the illustrations compliment it perfectly. With its limited colour scheme the illustrations manage to convey so much and Marmalade is one of the most expressive cats I have ever seen (this from someone who is not a cat person. But Marmalade almost convinced me. )

Given the reasonable price for a charming hard cover picture book this is sure to find its way into many homes and schools and so it should.

A Year With Marmalade
Text by Alison Reynolds
Illustrations by Heath Mc Kenzie
Published by Five Mile Press
ISBN 9781742488806
Hardcover picture book $14.95

Available from good bookstores or online.

Banjo Bounces Back, by Lachie Hume

Banjo was a star.
But one day Banjo flew too high…
and took a terrible tumble.

Banjo Bounces Back

Banjo the horse loves hoofball. He practices every day with his friend Bella, and they play together every Saturday wit their team, the Whinnies. But when Banjo has a fall, the doctor orders him not to play for six weeks. Bedridden, Banjo plays on his Haystation and eats molasses. When he is finally allowed to play hoofball again, he is overweight and unfit, and nothing feels right. Discouraged, he gives up the game – until something happens to Bella that makes him realise how much his friends, his team, and hoofball all mean to him. He realises that if he wants to keep playing he needs to get fit again.

Banjo Bounces Back is a humorous new picture book from the creator of Clancy the Courageous Cow, with messages about health and fitness, being part of a team, self belief and friendship. The horse characters, brought to life in a deceptively simple watercolour illustrations, and the equine lingo (Haystation and horspital are just two examples) will appeal to young readers.

Lots of fun.
Banjo Bounces Back, by Lachie Hume
Omnibus, 2012
ISBN 9781862918467

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Pros & Cons of Being a Frog, by Sue deGennaro

Finding the right animal wasn’t easy.
It was Camille who gave me the idea of being a frog.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog

The narrator of this whimsical picture book and his friend Camille are quite different. Camille is a numbers person – she loves them so much that sometimes she speaks only in numbers. The narrator is a little more creative and,w hen they meet, dresses in a cat costume. But being a cat is causing problems with a local dog, so Camille comes up with a solution, and helps the narrator to choose a new animal – the frog. This works fine until he asks Camille to be a frog, too.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog is a whimsical story of friendship and difference. Both Camille and her friend are a little odd – one wearing a costume every day, the other being obsessed by numbers. But each learns not just to accept the other’s difference, but to value it, because it is because of these differences that they complement each other.

The messages about uniqueness and about friendship are apparent, but the whimsy of the story is what drives it, making both laugh out loud funny and heartwarmingly touching. The illustrations, using collage, pencil and ink are similarly whimsical, with neither the practicality of the numbers or the creativity overwhelming – instead uniting to make a delightful whole. The cover, with its embossed numbers and image of the two characters considering the title, is perfect.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog, by Sue deGennaro
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 978174283063

Available from good bookstores or online.

Ghost Club: The New Kid by Deborah Abela

Twins, Angeline and Edgar, are more than just the only child members of the Ghost Club, they are also very skilled ghost-catchers. When there’s a haunting report, they don their coats, hitch their backpacks and set off to solve ghostly mysteries.

‘There he is!’

Angeline sprang over the chesterfield lounge and raced down the murky corridor with Edgar close behind.

Their boots pounded on the floorboards. Their long, hooded coats flapped behind them as  they ran through multicoloured beams of moonlight pouring in through stained-glass windows. Just ahead, a loud, deep moaning burst into the night – followed by an ancient Chinese vase.

 

Twins, Angeline and Edgar, are more than just the only child members of the Ghost Club, they are also very skilled ghost-catchers. When there’s a haunting report, they don their coats, hitch their backpacks and set off to solve ghostly mysteries. It’s a job they’re born to, one they enjoy immensely and are very good at. Enter Dylan, grandson of Grandmaster Fleischmann. He’s just joined Ghost Club and Angeline and Edgar look forward to helping Dylan settle in and learn the ways of ghost-catching. But Dylan isn’t quite convinced that ghost-catching is the job for him. Then they get a call from the castle. There’s been a sighting of a ghost, and he doesn’t seem friendly.

 

The New Kid is the first title in a new series from Deborah Abela for mid-primary readers. Twins Angeline and Edgar are part of an extended, loving family. They have nosy neighbours, variable cooking skills and secrets. They live in a normal street, and are perfectly normal. Except that they are also ghost-catchers. In this first instalment of a series, the reader meets a broad range of characters both dead and alive. Dylan is swept along in the ghost-catching excitement, wondering if he’ll ever adjust to this new world. Angeline is the leader, seemingly invincible, yet like the ghosts they encounter, she has secrets. Edgar speaks a fluent ghost-catcher language which can seem quite foreign to outsiders. They may seem different to outsiders, but this family and their Ghost Club are as cohesive as any community. And there are gadgets galore! Recommended for mid-primary readers.

 

Ghost Club: The New Kid , Deborah Abela
Random House Australia 2012 ISBN: 9781742750804

 

 

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Avaialble from good bookstores or online .

The Beginner's Guide to Revenge, by Marianne Musgrove

I’m still not entirely sure what happened. One minute I was telling my friends how nervous I was about reading a poem on ANZAC Day, how they were expecting twenty or thirty thousand people to show up to the Dawn Service, how it was going to be broadcast on national TV. The Next minute Riley announces she doesn’t believe in glorifying war and she’s not attending on principle.

Romola should be used to changing schools – this is the fifth time she’s done it. But it isn’t easy, and this time she’s determined not to mess it up. She is going to make friends, and keep them whatever it takes. All she has to do is keep her mouth shut and not do anything outlandish. But Riley, one of the ‘in’ girls and supposedly Romola’s new friend, doesn’t make it easy. Whenever Romola likes something, it seems Riley doesn’t.

Sebastian has problems, too. His mum has hooked up with a new guy, and now they’re talking about getting married. If that happens, Sebastian’s mum and dad can never get back together.

Sebastian and Romola don’t know each other, but fate throws them together, and soon the pair are friends, helping each other through some tough times, and exchanging tips for getting through. Both are out for revenge – but as they get to know each other, and themselves, a bit better, they realise that revenge isn’t always sweet.

The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge is a fabulous dual perspective tale of friendship and family – and revenge. Told with humour, it is nonetheless a book which addresses serious issues, including family dynamics, the impact of war, peer pressure and belonging.

The Beginner's Guide to Revenge

Suitable for readers aged ten and over.
The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge, by Marianne Musgrove
Woolshed Press, 2012
ISBN 978174275086

Available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Tanglewood, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne Goodman

‘What is family?’ asked Tanglewood.
‘Family is love and friendship. Family is everything.’

Tanglewood is the only tree on a tiny island, and she is lonely. She calls to the dolphins, the seals and the birds to come and play with her, but they don’t, and Tanglewood thinks she might die of loneliness. Then, in the midst of a storm, a seagull falls into her branches, and Tanglewood shelters her. When Seagull leaves, to return to her family, Tanglewood is even more alone, having known the feeling of company, but she stays strong, because one day Seagull will return. When that day comes, Tanglewood gets a delightful surprise – not one seagull, but a whole flock, bearing the gift of life in the form of seeds.

Tanglewood is a breathtaking collaboration. Margaret Wild’s text is powerful, syaing enough but never too much and moving like a gentle stream from page to page. Read aloud, the words entrance. The illustrations are a mix of sizes, form double page spreads, to multiple panels on a page, as well as single panels and horizontal panels spanning the middle of spreads with text above and below. The might of the sea, the sparsity of the lonely island and the beauty of the gulls are all captured.

This is a charming, wrenching, gorgeous story.

Tanglewood

Tanglewood, by Margaret Wild & Vivienne Goodman
Omnibus, 2012
ISBN 9781862915701

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

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

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

Ben and Duck, Sarah Acton

A story of friendship

Ben likes to feed the ducks at the park. But today there is only one duck. So Ben feeds him and then decides to return home. Duck follows. No matter whether Ben goes under, over or around on the way home, Duck follows him. Even when he finally thinks he’s escaped the following Duck, Duck turns up at his house. Ben gives in and discovers that his normal activities are more fun when Duck joins in. When it’s bedtime, Duck goes home, but next morning Ben’s preparation for his trip to the park take into account his new friendship. Illustrations are in watercolour, pencil and sepia ink, and set the main protagonists in plenty of white space.

Ben seems content as a solitary figure, but sometimes friends know us better than we know ourselves. Duck is happy initially to eat all that Ben brings, but then follows Ben home as if recognising that the two could be friends. Ben’s initial resistance is overcome and the pair enjoy their time together. Ben and Duck is a gentle tale about the positive yet intangible benefits of friendship. Very few words are needed, just as very few are really needed in establishing and maintaining friendship. Recommended for pre-schoolers and early primary readers.

Ben and Duck

 

Ben and Duck, Sara Acton
Scholastic 2011
ISBN: 9781741699142

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

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

The Red Bridge, by Kylie Dunstan

Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her.

Claire had said goodbye to all her favourite people
and flown a long way from home.

Everything was different, the smells, the sky, the sounds.
Everything seemed difficult.

Claire and her family have moved overseas, to a city where everything seems terribly different  to her home in Australia. Claire worries about lots of things – the language, the traffic, the food – but most of all she wonders how she will make new friends. Maybe, her mother suggests, the friends will find her. And that is exactly what happens. Claire is waved to by a little girl on the back of a bike, and smiled at by a boy in a restaurant. When she meets the  girl again in the markets, she knows she has a new friend. But it is when Claire finds herself lost  on a walk that her new friend, Kieu, actually finds her, and shows her the way home.

The Red Bridge is a sumptuous picture book about friendship and about change. Claire moves across the world, but the fears she feels are just as real for children going through any move, or even other changes in their lives. How will I make friends? How will I know how to do things? How will I get around? Claire is guided by her mother, who doesn’t express her own fears at the same changes, yet perhaps best shows them in her triumphant cheer when they manage to get across a busy road together. But Mum also has the courage to let Claire explore her new neighbourhood after they’ve become familiar, a nice touch which is perhaps a gentle reminder for nervous parents to let go.

Illustrated in generously rich reds, browns and golden tones using Dunstan’s delightful mixed media collage, The Red Bridge is a beautiful offering suitable for early childhood readers.

Red Bridge

The Red Bridge, by Kylie Dunstan
Windy Hollow Books, 2011
ISBN 9781921136726

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

Harry's War, by John Heffernan

Harry loves spending time with his Grandpa, especially when Grandpa shares his stories of the war. Grandpa is a war hero, and his stories are amazing. Harry’s dad was a soldier, too, but he died when Harry was little, so Harry never heard his stories. Harry’s War is a moving tale of one boy’s quest for the truth about his father and grandfather as he learns about truth, family and friendship…

What’s war? – you ask.

That’s a really hard question. I’m not even sure I can answer it. I’ll try, but, and I’ll do it by telling you about my war. Whether that’s enough you’ll have to figure out for myself.

Harry loves spending time with his Grandpa, especially when Grandpa shares his stories of the war. Grandpa is a war hero, and his stories are amazing. Harry’s dad was a soldier, too, but he died when Harry was little, so Harry never heard his stories. In fact, Harry doesn’t know much about his dad at all, because no one will tell him about Dad’s years in the army, or about his death. When he starts to unravel the truth, Harry realises why Mum has kept her secret. But it is another secret which has the power to really change Harry’s life.

Harry’s War is a moving tale of one boy’s quest for the truth about his father and grandfather as he learns about truth, family and friendship. With the reader he also learns about he realities of war and its effects on soldiers and those left behind. There is a lot being explored here – as well as the issues already mentioned, there is Harry’s struggle with reading and writing, his friendship with his bet mate Will, and his sometimes careless attitude towards himself and others. Mostly, though is just an absorbing story.
Harrys War

Harry’s War, by John Heffernan
Omnibus, 2011
ISBN 978186291927

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