Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting

‘Don’t worry,’ says Grandad.
‘The sandcastle is still here;
you just can’t see it.’

Rae wants to build a magnificent sandacste, and when Grandad offers to help they do indeed build a very fine castle. But when the tide starts to come in, Rae watches as, bit by bit, the magnificent castle is washed away. Grandad, though, explains that the castle isn’t really gone, because everything that made it is still there.

Sandcastle is a beuatiful exploration of the ebb and flow of life, and of the gentle bond between grandparent and grandchild. Whil Grandad’s wisdom is deep, so too is Rae’s willingness to accept that wisdom.

The deceptively simple illustrations use sandy tones as well as blues with embellishments of red and yellow. The focus is squarely on Rae and Grandad as they enjoy time together, seemingly the only two at the beach – with the exception of a gorgeous orange crab. Another lovely touch is the absence of any gendered pronouns for Rae, something which is difficult to achieve but doesn’t seem forced in this text.

A beautiful book.

Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760634438

Nanna’s Button Tin, by Dianne Wolfer & Heather Potter

We start sorting the buttons.
The button I’m looking for
needs to be just the right size,
just the right shape and just
the right colour.

Nanna’s button tin is a treasure trove of buttons of all sizes and shapes. But when Teddy needs a button, it has to be just the right one. As Teddy’s owner and her Nanna sort through the buttons, they also revisit the memories that the buttons contain – buttons from a baby cardigan, a button from a first meeting, and buttons from special outfits. Finally, though, just the right button is found, and Teddy has a new eye.

Nanna’s Button Tin is a divine picture book  offering. Many adults will share the joy of remembering a grandmother or mother’s button tin, and the bond between generations depicted is really special. Wolfer’s simple, heartwarming story is brought to life in beautiful pastel-toned gouache with ink outlines. The inclusion of details including a grandfather and baby sibling reading in the background highlight the warm family feel.

Suitable for all ages, this is just beautiful.

Nanna’s Button Tin, by Dianne Wolfer & Heather Potter
Walker Books, 2017
ISBN 9781922077677

The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh

OtherCHristyMy name is Christy but nobody calls me that. I’m in the same class with another girl named Christie, so I’ve become just the other Christy, the spare Christy. Not the popular, loud one everyone likes.

Christy Ung has been on the outer ever since she arrived in Australia. Every year she is put in the same class as Christie Owen, and that makes Christy the other Christy. Christie Owen is loud and popular – but she’s also mean, especially to Christy. Christy, meanwhile, has no friends, and her classmates don’t even seem to notice her. The only people who seem to care are Auntie Mayly and Grandpa, who is really strange, and whose main passion in life is cleaning. With such a strange home life, Christy wonders if she will ever be able to make a friend.

The Other Christy is a humorous but touching story of searching for friendship an fitting in, dealing as well with issues of immigration and bereavement. Christy is being raised by her Grandfather after the death of her mother in Cambodia, and is keenly aware of the differences between her own homelife and those of her classmates. Christy is a likeable protagonist, and the resolution is satisfying.

The Other Christy, by Oliver Phommavanh
Puffin Books, 2016

Lily the Elf: The Wishing Seed & The Elf Flute, by Anna Brandford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Wishing Seed (Lily the Elf)
Lily hugs the seed tightly. Then she whispers into the fluff.
Lovely dandelion seed
(not a pest and not a weed),
grant my wish
with super-speed,
a princess crown
is what I need!

Lily’s dress up crown is broken and tattered. She dreams of having a sparkly, unbroken princess crown. So, when a dandelion wish seed floats by, she knows what to do. She makes the wish and waits impatiently for it to come true. But nothing happens. Her wise dad and granny tell her that sometimes fixing things is better than wishing things, but Lily isn’t convinced – until both adults help her to fix her crown into something very special.

The Elf Flute (Lily the Elf)
First, she holds the flute sideways. Next, she wiggles her fingers over the holes. Then she blows over the big hole at the top.
She waits for lovely music to fill the room. But there is only a whiffling sound.

When Lily is given a brand new elf flute, she decides she will play it at the Grand Elf Concert, rather than recite the poem she has written. But learning to play the flute is harder than she thought. Will she master it in time for the concert?

The Wishing Seed and The Elf Flute are two new titles in the delightful Lily the Elf series. Each self-contained chapter book features Lily and her family – her father and her granny. Lily tackles problems which are a charming blend of elfish and human problems – wanting or wishing for something, mastering a new skill, appreciating individual talents and so on.

Black and white illustrations on most spreads, simple sentence structures and large font make these titles suitable for emergent readers, but accessibility has not compromised the story quality.

A lovely pair.

The Wishing Seed (ISBN 9781925081060)
The Elf Flute (ISBN 9781925081077)
both by Anna Brandford & Lisa Coutts (ill)
Walker Books, 2015

Bamboozled, by David Legge

I love my grandad.
I visit him every week.
And every week, things are the same.
But last week when I arrived, something seemed odd.

When the young narrator of this story visits her grandad, she does all the things she usually does – drinking tea, helping with the housework and gardening, feeding the cat and so on – but all the while, she can’t help feeling that something is different than usual. As the text describes what seems a very normal day, the illustrations show things which viewers will find anything but normal – from the giraffe in the front yard when she arrives, to the tea being poured from a watering can, and the cat, which is in fact a tiger in a highchair. Readers will love spotting these details and so very many more, but the biggest surprise will be in realising what it is that the narrator has sensed as different – Grandad’s odd socks.

The fabulousness and eccentricity of Grandad and his house will delight, and the realisation that the girl has not overlooked all of this but has, instead regarded it as normal, is satsifying, leading readers to question and discuss what they are seeing, and versions of normality. The bright, detailed watercolour illustrations reveal more on each rereading.

First published in 1994, it is lovely to see a new edition released to mark the 21st anniversary of Bamboozled.

Bamboozled, by David Legge
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743620212

Bella and the Wandering House, by Meg McKinlay

Bella and the wandering house cover‘Sorry.’ Bella lifted her foot. She hopped onto the path and looked back at the house. And as she did, a shiver prickled her skin. Because what she saw made no sense. The front steps ran down the veranda – the way they always had, the way they must. But where they should have met the path – the way they always had, the way they must … they didn’t.
Instead, things were crooked. It was if the world had shifted sideways a little, in a quiet sort of way…

Bella is the only one who notices that her house is doing strange things. Her mum and dad, caught up in their busy lives, think she’s dreaming when she says that the house has moved. But soon the house starts moving further and further from their yard, and even Bella’s parents are forced to take notice when they wake up next to a pond. But it is Bella who figures out why the house is moving, and what they can do to help it.

Bella and the Wandering House is a whimsical tale of a wandering house, imagination and memories. The gentle mystery of why the house wanders – and what can be done about it – is resolved agianst the background of a lovely relationship between Bella and her grandfather. Bella is an independent, strong character, and and the change in her parents as the story proceeds is satisfying.

Suitable for junior primary readers.

Bella and the Wandering House, by Meg McKinlay
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162301

Newspaper Hats, by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan

Newspaper Hats
Georgie walked through the doors that opened like curtains.
‘Will Grandpa remember me today?’ she asked.
Her father squeezed her hand and smiled. ‘Wait and see.’

Georgie loves her Grandpa, and goes with Dad to see him. But Grandpa has trouble remembering things, and sometimes he doesn’t even remember Georgie, even though he remembers things from long ago. Georgie tries to jog Grandpa’s memory with photographs and when they find a photo of Georgie wearing a newspaper hat, Grandpa remembers how much he loves those hats. Soon, Georgie, Grandpa and Dad are busily making paper hats for each other and for the other residents of the nursing home.

Newspaper Hats is a beautiful story of the love between a grandchild and grandparent, and the issues of memory loss and dementia. While the child character is challenged by the fact that her grandfather doesn’t remember her, she is empowered by being the one who finds a way to connect with him, enriching both of their lives.

The illustrations, rendered in watercolour and pencil in gentle pastel tones, are a lovely complement to the text, and touches such as news font on key words, and endpapers featuring headlines and front pages from a wide range of time periods add visual interest and talking points.

A wonderful tool for discussing issues of ageing – and celebrating newspaper hats!

Newspaper Hats, by Phil Cummings & Owen Swan
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743622544

Available from good bookstores and online.

Lily the Elf: The Midnight Owl & The Precious Ring, by Anna Branford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Precious Ring (Lily the Elf)an owl is hooting.
Lily shivers with each hoot.
“Who’s awake? Who? Whoooo?” asks the midnight owl.
Lily covers her ears with her pillow.

Lile the Elf can’t sleep. SOmehwere nearby an owl is hooting. It sounds scary. In the mroning, though, Granny tells her that the owl sounds friendly. She wants to take Lily to meet him. But Lily doesn’t think she can be as brave as granny, until, with Granny’s help, she finds her own strength and makes a new friend.

The Midnight Owl is one of the new Lily the Elf series from author Anna Branford and illustrator Lisa Coutts, and is warm tale of bravery, friendship and the bond between a grandchild and grandparent.

In the second book, The Precious Ring , Lily finds a human ring in the garden near her home. Filled with water, it is just right for a paddling pool for Lily to play with. But when she realises that the ring is a much-loved possession which a human child has lost, she has to decide whetehr to keep her pool, or work to get it back to its rightful owner.

Both stories use simplle, but interesting text, with lots of illustrative support, perfect for young readers transitioning from first readers to the chapter book format. Lily is a loveable, honest and quirky character, and the relationship between her and Granny, with Dad playing a supporting role, is lovely.

The Midnight Owl ISBN: 9781925081053
The Precious Ring ISBN: 9781925081046
both by Anna Branford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts
Walker Books 2015

The Memory Shed, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Sheds don’t move on their own. Did Grandma have a bad dream? Is she feeling a bit muddled? Just to keep her happy, I peer through the glass. All I can see are two old cane chairs sitting empty on the back verandah.
‘Don’t worry,’ I say. ‘I’m sure the shed hasn’t moved.’

Grandma wants to clean out er cluttered back shed, and Annie is helping her. But the shed seems to have other ideas. Every time Grandma plans the clean-up, the shed seems to resist. Annie helps Grandma uncover some of the treasures the shed holds – and the memories they bring back – and in the process, they realise that the shed just might be right.

The Memory Shed is a gently humorous story about family, about remembering the past, and about connections between generations. A contemporary story, it also explores the effects of the Great Depression, and life in bush camps.

Illustrations, by Craig Smith, are in grey scale, and appear on every spread. Comprehensive teaching notes are available on the Scholastic website.

Suitable for classroom use and for private reading by emergent readers.

The Memory Shed, by Sally Morgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina
Omnibus Books, 2015
ISBN 9781742990347

Available from good bookstores and online.

My Nanna is a Ninja, by Damon Young & Peter Carnavas

Some nannas dress in pink
when they jog around the track.
But my nanna is a ninja…
so she dresses up in black.

All nannas are different, but when your nanna is a ninja, she does super different things, like juggling ninja stars and eating with swords. Still, even a ninja nanna can do ‘normal’ grandmother things like kissing a grandchild goodnight, though she might do it very quietly.

My Nanna is a Ninja is a humour-filled picture book in rhyme, celebrating difference, the grandparent-grandchild relationship and, of course, ninjas. The text flows freely, and the humour of Nanna’s actions will amuse. The illustrations, in ink and watercolour have all the whimsy we’ve come to expect from Peter Carnavas, an the use of sepia washed frames to show the things Nanna does when the child isn’t present is a clever technique.

In hardcover with a gorgeous bright yellow cover, My Nanna is a Ninja is a celebration of non-conventional grandparents.


My Nanna is a Ninja, by Damon Young & Peter Carnavas
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702250095

Available from good bookstores and online.