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

Little Barry Bilby Had Fly Upon His Nose, by Colin Buchanan & Roland Harvey

Little Barry Bilby had a fly upon his nose…
Little Peter Possum had a mozzie on his ear…
Little Colly Cocky had a beetle on his beak…
And the bizzy buzzy bush bugs won’t go away!

This humorous picture book is filled with favourite Aussie animals – bilby, echidna, wombat, dingo and more – all afflicted by annoying bush bugs, from flies and mozzies to cicadas and even a bogong moth. The best solution is to tumble down the gully and jump in the creek. The repetitive text encourages children to join in, and can be either read or sung, with an accompanying CD coming in handy for the latter.

The illustrations are in gentle bush pastel tones with lovable animals and insects, with zany touches such as the slightly cross-eyed look of Barry Bilby.

Suitable for children from birth through to primary school age, Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose is lots of fun.

Little Barry Bilby Had a Fly Upon His Nose, by Colin Buchanan and Roland Harvey
Scholastic Australia, 2015
ISBN 9781743621899

Available from good bookstores and online.

Guinea Pig Town, by Lorraine Marwood

It was our brother’s idea
to build a town,
a small town
for many guinea pigs
which kept multiplying –
cream ginger and black
wisps of colour and rabbity-mousey
features, all ours.

So begins the title poem of this beautiful collection of animal poems from one of Australia’s leading children’s poets. Stretching over four pages this poem, the longest in the collection, tells the tale of siblings building a ‘town’ for their guinea pigs, but it is more than just a story – it is a celebration of childhood, of pets, and of the magic way in which poetry can bring such events to life.

Other poems are much shorter – just a few lines of perfect poetic observation, as in Storm:
The wind so strong
a dragonfly cartwheels
along the ground

But whatever the length, the quality of the poems is consistent. Each new poem is a delight waiting to be discovered, and, like the subject matter, to be wondered at. From cute and cuddly kittens to scary spiders and thrilling frill-necks, there is an animal on every page for young readers to enjoy, whether they read cover to cover, or dip in and out.

New children’s poetry collections are few and far between in Australia, which is regrettable, but fortunately Marwood, (with the support of publisher Walker Books) continues to produce quality collections of Aussie children to savour.

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems

Guinea Pig Town and Other Animal Poems, by Lorraine Marwood
Walker Books, 2013
ISBN 9781922077424

Available from good bookstores or online.

Spineless, by Bronwen Scott

Australian homes and backyards are abuzz with wildlife: flies in the bedroom, possums in the roof, earwigs in the potplants and spiders hanging from windows and racing across walls. There are ticks on the dog, fleas on the cat and nits on the children’s hair.

When you have bugs, insects or spiders visiting your yard or your house, it is not always easy to know what they are, and whether they are harmful or helpful. This little guide will help. Spineless is a useful little offering, helping readers to identify crawlers, jumpers and more, and to understand whether they are pal or pest before giving hints on how to deal with them.

As well as a traditional contents page, a second one, titled ‘What’s Doing This?’ offers an easy way to locate pages about biters, chirpers and more. There is also a useful first aid section and a bibliography of further reading.

Author Bronwen Scott is a zoologist with 25 years of studying spinelss creatures. Spineless shares her knowledge in a form accessible to laymen.

Spineless: Dealing with Pests and Pals in Your Home and Backyard

Spineless: Dealing with Pests and Pals in Your Home and Backyard, by Bronwen Scott
Jacana Books, 2009

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