Cows Say Moo, by Graeme Base

Cows say moo. But what sounds do other animals make?

Children and adults alike have long been delighted by the amazing detail of Graeme Base’s artwork, along with his stories in books such as Sign of the Seahorse and Animalia. Now, though, the very young are being offered a series of fold-out flap books, the Little Bug Books.

Cows Say Moo , one of the four titles, focuses on the sounds made by animals including cows, ducks, tigers and more. Each spread includes minimal text. For example, the cows spread features the words ‘Cows say’, and when the flap is folded out, a speech bubble shows one of the cows ‘saying’ Moo!. The illustrations use white space, with realistic looking animals against rural backgrounds, simpler than the complex illustrations of Base’s longer works. Hidden in each illustration is a little bug, providing a challenge for slightly older readers.

This sturdy offering, and the remainder of the series, will be loved by young readers.


Cows Say Moo (Little Bug Books)

Cows Say Moo , by Graeme Base
Viking, 2014
ISBN 9780670077618

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

The Jewel Fish of Karnak, by Graeme Base

The Jewel Fish of Karnakis a sumptuous hard cover picture puzzle book from bestselling author/illustrator Graeme Base. With Bases’s signature illustrative style – lots of detail, quirky characters and rich colours – and a mystery to solve, there is lots to keep readers interested.

The Cat Pharaoh thought for a moment.
‘Well then, thieves, I have a task for you,’ she said. ‘In distant Karnak lies the Palace of the Crocodile Prince. Go there and bring back the golden Jewel Fish that the Crocodile took from me. If you do this, I will pardon you.”
In Ancient Egypt Jackal and Iris are in trouble. They’ve been caught stealing from the town market. They beg the Pharaoh for mercy and she sets them a task: steal back her stolen Jewel Fish and she will pardon them. But the pair are warned: keep the fish dry, and do not steal anything else. Unfortunately, the pair do not follow instructions, and their greediness lands them in more trouble. Only the reader can help them by locating the Jewel Fish.

The Jewel Fish of Karnakis a sumptuous hard cover picture puzzle book from bestselling author/illustrator Graeme Base. With Bases’s signature illustrative style – lots of detail, quirky characters and rich colours – and a mystery to solve, there is lots to keep readers interested. At the end of the story the reader is invited to become involved by finding the clues to figure out where the missing Jewel Fish is. In the back cover of the book there is a Jewel Fish mechanisim used to solve the msytery and work out what the fish looks like, and the wrap around cover includes a fold out map filled with facts about Ancient Egypt.

Whilst younger children will findt the book visually appealing, it is school aged children who will be likely to be able to decipher the mystery. If unable, they will find clues online on a dedicated website.


The Jewel Fish of Karnak

The Jewel Fish of Karnak, by Graeme Base
Penguin, 2011
ISBN 9780670074679

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Legend of the Golden Snail, by Graeme Base

Sailing ship, rise and shine,
Hoist your ails and trim them fine,
Taste once more the salty brine,
For with this spell I make you mine!

Wilbur loves to hear the tale of the legendary Golden Snail. Captured by a Grand Enchanter and banished to the ends of the earth, the snail now languishes on a distant shore. Wilbur is determined to find the snail, and sets off on a perilous journey. Along the way, Wilbur feels compelled to help others in need, and when he finally finds the snail he realises that the snail is not quite what he expected.

The Legend of the Golden Snail is the newest offering from favourite picture book creator Graeme Base, whose ability to match quirky but endearing stories with brilliantly complex illustrations has earned him legions of fans young and old. This new book will not disappoint with illustrations which seem almost 3 dimensional, featuring giant creatures, colourful skies and fantastical sea scapes.

A wonderful gift and a true collector’s item, this is also simply a book which kids will love.

The Legend of the Golden Snail

The Legend of the Golden Snail, by Graeme Base
Penguin, 2010
ISBN 9780670073498

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

Animalia, by Graeme Base

Reviewed by Tash Hughes

One of Graeme Base’s earlier and best known books, Animaliais a treat.

Base himself didn’t think another alphabet book was needed in the world, so didn’t expect much of this book; how wrong he was! Animalia is an alphabet book, with most letters being allocated a single or double page. T and U, N and O share two pages between them.

Each letter has a poem that conjures up bizarre and interesting animal images, yet seems almost insignificant in the face of the illustrations.

Each page of the book is packed with pictures within pictures. The overall page scene relates to the letter’s verse; for instance, “Eight Enormous Elephants Expertly eating Easter Eggs” has a picture of eight elephants with Easter eggs!

Beyond that, the page contains many other items beginning with the letter for the page. In fact, there at least a thousand different alphabetised things in the book to find! Some are subtle, some are well hidden and some may take time to identify (such as the philosopher and politician, or the hamster, Humpty and hook). All are detailed and linked to the letter – even the can is a coke can and the wolf is white!

Like other books by Base, the book can appeal to many age groups, each group looking at the levels that are appropriate and being unaware of shared levels within.

As a final challenge, Base warns, “In Animalia, you see, It’s possible you might find me.” With care and effort, the boy Graeme can be found on each page in the book.

Some of the Animalia pages have also been made into jigsaw puzzles that are both fascinating and challenging because of the depths to each letter’s picture.

Animalia, by Graeme Base
Viking Kestrel, 1986

The Waterhole by Graeme Base

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball


Graeme Base’s children’s books are special. They are the sort you read and re-read and save for your grandchildren. Artist and author Base’s vivid and highly detailed drawings are so sumptuous, so full of fun and whimsy, without compromising on realism that you can look at his work long after you’ve finished reading the text. Recently released in paperback, The Waterhole was inspired by a visit to Kenya and Tanzania. The gently rhyming and alliterative prose follows a shrinking waterhole as animals from all over the world gather at it to drink. The waterhole itself is cleverly cut into the pages of the book, which gives it a 3-D effect as it shrinks into nothing.

The book operates on many levels. It is a counting book, with each number corresponding to a page, animals, and a particular area of the world. It is also a book of discovery, where you can learn about the areas it covers in the animal frieze around the edge of each page. Your children can also find the hidden animals on each page, the crayfish, storks, foxes, peacocks, bears and so on, formed out of the fauna. On each page is also a series of funny, dressed frogs, which leave “town” when the water runs out. Finally, this is an ecological book, encouraging children (and adults) to think about our most importance resource, our vulnerability without it, and the cycle of dry and wet.

This beautiful book is rich, powerful, and lots of fun. The watercolour, pencil and gouache illustrations are stunning, and although the text is relatively simple, it is humorous. There are real animal sounds and their English “translations” – now I know the sound a ladybird makes (Bzui)! There is so much for children to learn from this wonderful book – from the diversity of our natural world, problem solving skills, the flora and fauna of the world, ecology, and of course, the joy of reading.

The Waterhole by Graeme Base
Puffin, March 2003, pb, RRP $A19.95
ISBN 0-14-0567534

Magdalena Ball is Editor of The Compulsive Reader, Preschool Entertainment, and is the author The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything. Her fiction, poetry, reviews, interviews, and essays have appeared in a wide range of on-line and print publications.