Crusts, by Danny Parker & Matt Ottley

Jacob refused to eat his crusts.
His Mum said they would make his hair curly.
Jacob didn’t want curly hair.
She said they would make him sleep better.
he didn’t believe her.
His mum said it was a waste,
so Jacob saved them
in a box in the dark,
safe and cool in his shed.


Jacob doesn’t like crusts, and refuses to believe his mum when she says they are good for him. But when she says not eating them is wasteful, he decides to keep them, sure they will be useful for something. That something is surprising: a tiny, far away planet is falling apart. Pieces keep crumbling off.  Three intrepid travellers head off, looking for help. When they find Jacob’s crusts, they are sure they have found their answer. But they are tiny aliens. The problems is how to communicate with Jacob and get him to figure out a way to get the crusts to their planet.

Crusts is a humorous, imaginative picture book offering which young crust-avoiders will love. With  Jacob’s story and the aliens’ story delineated using separate illustration panels and distinct dialogue boxes  for the aliens, the book has elements of a graphic novel blended with more traditional picture book style. Jacob doesn’t see the tiny aliens, so their means of getting across whay they need has to be visual – through diagrams and clever layout of his toys.

This is not the first time author Parker and illustrator Ottley have worked together for a satisfying picture book, and hopefully it won’t be the last.

Crusts, by Danny Parker & Matt Ottley



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

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

Where is Bear? by Jonathan Bentley

Where is Bear?
Where could Bear be?

A young boy is ready for bed, but cannot find his bear anywhere. He searches first the bedroom, then the rest of the house, and even outside. The reader can see what he apparently can’t – a huge reddish brown bear that shadows him everywhere. Finally, in desperation, the boy asks the reader  Have you seen Bear? But, though an answer from the reader might be forthcoming, the surprise is that boy looks around and finds, not the big bear, but a teddy bear peeking out from a rug in the bedroom. The boy then presents it to the big bear and, together, the pair go to bed.
This humorous, clever picture book will draw the young reader in, and encourage them to interact. The apparent humour of the boy seemingly unable to see the huge bear who follows him everywhere, coupled with the twist at the end, makes for lots of child engagement and laughter. Bentley’s colourful pencil and watercolour illustrations fill each spread, and allow for minimal text.

Where is Bear? By Jonathan Bentley
Little Hare, 2016
ISBN 9781760122911

Go to Sleep, Jessie! by Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood

Every night she does this.
Ever since she moved into my room.

Jessie won’t go to sleep. She throws her pillow on the floor, she stands at the bar of her cot, and she screams. Her big sister can’t sleep either – she wishes Jessie would be quiet, or, better still, that Jessie wasn’t sharing her room at all. It seems nothing will settle Jessie down to sleep, except maybe a little bit of sisterly love.

Go to Sleep, Jessie! is a gorgeous tale of a situation many families will relate to,from one of Australia’s favourite picture book pairings. Libby Gleeson’s text tells a fairly simple tale of a baby who won’t sleep in spite of big sister, Mum and Dad’s efforts, but at the same time there’s a deeper tale, of both sibling rivalry and sibling love. Apart from not being able to sleep, the big sister also laments the loss of her own space, and the disruption that Jessie has brought to her life. When Mum tells her she doesn’t really want her own room, big sister disagrees – but when Dad takes Jessie out for a drive to try to settle her, big sister can’t sleep, and it is her sisterly intervention which finally gets Jessie to sleep and helps her sleep, too.

Freya Blackwood’s illustrations, in watercolour, gouache and pencil, perfectly capture both the frustration and the mixed emotions of the big sister, as well as Jessie’s upset. WHile Mum and Dad are art of the story, Blackwood makes sure the children are central – with Mum and Dad only visible either from behind or from angles which don’t show their faces. This is the children’s story, and the final image of them asleep together in Jessie’s cot is gorgeous.

A beautiful picturebook.


Go to Sleep, Jessie! by Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood
Little Hare, 2014
ISBN 9781742977805

Available from good bookstores and online.

Lone Pine, by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner

Lone Pine is a touching reminder of the events of Lone Pine, and of the true story of how a mother commemorated her lost son, and all who fell in that battle. It is also a reminder of the personal and national impact of war.

The soldier slips the pine cone into his pocket. It is a reminder of this sad day.
Then he keeps searching for his brother.

As he searches for his brother on the battlefield after the Battle of Lone Pine, a soldier finds a pine cone. He pockets it, and later sends it home to his mother. Bereft at the loss of one of her boys, the mother plants seeds from the cone, two of which grow into saplings. Determined to help people remember the Battle and the soldiers who died, she sends one tree to Inverell, where her sons grew up, and the other to Canberra. Nearly 100 years later one of those trees still survives in Canberra. In Inverell, a tree planted from the seeds of the first grows.

Lone Pine is a touching reminder of the events of Lone Pine, and of the true story of how a mother commemorated her lost son, and all who fell in that battle. It is also a reminder of the personal and national impact of war. The story manages a gentle balance between the horror of war, the sorrow of those left behind and the importance of remembering, and the illustrations, in chiefly sombre tones mirror the serious nature of the topic, with lovely touches of light offering hope, especially in th beautiful final spread showing the tree which has weathered many storms to survive. This spread is also used as a lovely contrast to the opening spread which shows the tree against a black stormy sky being thrashed by a storm. Back of book notes offer information about the battle, the trees and the family on which the story is based.

A beautiful story, suitable for classroom or private reading.
Lone Pine

Lone Pine, by Susie Brown & Margaret Warner, illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione
Little Hare 2012
ISBN 9781921541346

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

Stew a Cockatoo, by Ruthie May

This is a book for the whole family – kids and oldies alike. It’s full of old-time Aussie recipes, with a few new ones added in. Some you will have heard of, like Damper and Lamingtons – others are brand-spanking-new versions of golden oldies, like Edna Split and Roo Doo in a Patty Case. Some of the recipes have come all the way Down Under from faraway places like Italy and Mexico, but here they are given a you-beaut Aussie twist. All the recipes celebrate the grub that Aussies love to eat – from barbies with the rellies to fine dining with mates beside the pool.

When a recipe book is titled, Stew a Cockatoo there is a frisson of anxiety about the contents. And there is a recipe for Cockatoo Stew in amongst the other offerings. It may not ever become your favourite meal. But Stew a Cockatoo is more than a recipe book. It does have a list of the bits and bobs you might need in a kitchen, but there’s more. Like a late night tv advertisement that always promises more, ‘Stew a Cockatoo’ delivers Aussie-isms and an entertaining dollop of history. Some recipes, like that for damper, may see familiar, but can you guess what a ‘Redback Spider’ is and how you might make it? Each double page spread features an Australian saying, a bite of history and perhaps a definition or two, as well as a recipe or three. Leigh Hobbs’ fans will recognise his illustrations, and trademark humour. And with recipes for You-Beaut Snapper and Banana Benders, you’ll not go away hungry.

Stew a Cockatoo is both hilarious and serious, sometimes simultaneously. The recipes (mostly) can be made in any kitchen, or over any campfire. Some of the names have been changed to protect the innocent. Readers will take several journeys through Stew a Cockatoo . Firstly they’ll giggle at page titles like ‘Horse Doovers’ and ‘Whacko the Chook!’, then they’ll try to imagine the taste of recipes like ‘Roo Doo in a Patty Case’ and ‘Echidna Delight’. Finally they’ll return, again and again, to the recipes. Recipes are written in plain language, with easy to find ingredients (well…mostly). The target audience is pre-teens and it is suggested that children seek assistance and company in the kitchen. Sure to become a kid’s kitchen favourite, Stew a Cockatoo would also make a great gift for overseas visitors.

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook

Stew a Cockatoo: My Aussie Cookbook, Ruthie May, ill Leigh Hobbs
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541513

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

An ABC of Pirates, by Caroline Stills & Heath McKenzie

is for adventure
on an azure-coloured sea.
Hoist the anchor, maties,
’tis a pirate’s life for me.

Whilst there are plenty of ABC books on the market, the simple reason or this is that they are popular with parents and educators as an early-learning tool. An ABC of Pirates is likely to be also popular with young readers, offering, in addition to an exposure to the letters of the alphabet, an exciting pirate adventure. Each letter shows pirate characters in a range of exiting adventure situations. With the entry for each letter written in rhyming verse, the letter is used to begin several words in the entry, which are highlighted in bold font. The illustrations, by Heath McKenzie show the things mentioned int he text, as well as other items which start with that letter. For example, the ‘A’ entry has an astronaut, an alligator and an abacus in the illustration.

Easy to read aloud and fun to explore visually, this is a swashbuckling, fun-filled offering.

An ABC of Pirates

An ABC of Pirates, by Caroline Stills and Heath McKenzie
Little Hare, 2010
ISBN 9781921272776

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

No more Kisses! by Margaret Wild & Nina Rycroft

With a squeak and a squeal, Baby ran off and away.
“No more kisses!”

Baby has had enough of a game of kisses and cuddles, so he runs away, pursued by his laughing friends, until he turns the game back on them.

With rhythm and repetition, the lively text of this gorgeous offering will delight youngsters, who will join in the repetition and love to experiment with words like roly-poly and wriggle-squiggle. With text by queen of the picture book format, Margaret Wild, complemented by the lively watercolour illustrations by Nina Rycroft, this hard covering offering will appeal to toddlers and the adults who read to them.


No More Kisses!

No More Kisses! by Margaret Wild & Nina Rycroft
Little Hare, 2010
ISBN 9781921541520


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

Fun Bums, by Danielle McDonald

Have you ever seen a chicken’s bum dance?
Or an elephant’s bum lay an egg?

This cute novelty offering gives youngsters the chance to explore these and plenty of other silly combinations. Pages are split horizontally so that the top half of each animal’s body can be mixed with the bottom half of others. The left side of each spread features simple text – the top half naming each animal – Frog’s bum…, Pig’s bum.. and so on – and the bottom half saying what the opposite bottom does – …swims in the pond, dances to a tune and so on – so that each animal can be matched with the text and picture of each other animal’s bottom.

This is a simple yet humorous concept which will entertain prereaders and early readers, with the possibility of creating 40 combinations. The illustrations are bright and humourous.

A fun offering.

Fun Bums [Board book]

Fun Bums, by Danielle McDonald
Little Hare, 2010
ISBN 9781921541612

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

Tikki the Tricky Pixie, by Tiffany Mandrake

Tikki Flicker was in trouble for planting forget-me-nots in Pisky Marsh.
‘Don’t do that, Tikki Flicker!’ grumbled Uncle Sedge. ‘Remember the Pixie Code – Good pixies mind the marsh.’
Tikki giggled. ‘But Uncle Sedge, I’m a bad pixie. Putting plants where they annoy you is my most favourite bit of badness.’
‘Nonsense,’ said here uncle. He snorted. ‘Bad pixie indeed! Hmph!’
Tikki flickered away. ‘I am so a bad pixie,’ she said.

Hiding in her favourite ‘look-see’ tree, Tikki Flicker discovers that there is a place for bad pixies to go to if they want to properly learn how to be bad. Tikki is thrilled. The Hags Abademy of Badness sounds like somewhere she would really fit in, unlike here in the marsh where she never feels she quite belongs. But entry to the Abademy requires potential students to be awarded a Badge of Badness. And to earn that, no little annoyance will do, Tikki must perform a big badness. To achieve this she enlists the help of a tiny horse imp and a ‘dryfoot’ (human) boy. Martin Chatterton’s humourous black and white sketches are scattered throughout.

Tiffany Mandrake provides both foreword and afterword for Tikki the Tricky Pixie , warning that the story within is really a secret and that the reader must keep it so. She also explains that badness here is more about providing spice to life rather than doing too much harm. And indeed it’s hard to consider Tikki very wicked when her activities include causing flowers to grow where they shouldn’t, and tricking her uncle. Tikki is a delicious bite of mischief, trying very hard to find her place in the world. Recommended for independent readers.

Tikki the Tricky Pixie (Little Horrors)

Tikki the Tricky Pixie, Tiffany Mandrake ill Martin Chatterton
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541322

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

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