The Great Zoo Hullabaloo! by Mark Carthew ill Anil Tortop

When Jess and Jack opened the gates to the Zoo,
it was strangely deserted. Nobody said BOO!
‘Where’s the new roo?’ said Jess, looking round.
‘It’s never this quiet. I can’t hear a sound.’

When Jess and Jack arrive at the zoo to begin their day and to check on their newest animal, they find everything suspiciously quiet. None of the animals are to be seen, but it’s clear where they’ve been. There are open cages, and animal scats and tracks everywhere. They follow the tracks, the scats, the feathers and down. They know their animals love to roam free, but are keen to get them back before night falls. Just when Jess is beginning to worry, she finds Jack and the animals too. Illustrations are full of fun and humour as the animals conduct their big Hullabaloo.

‘The Great Zoo Hullabaloo’ tells a story of disappearing zoo animals, the tracks they leave behind and the reason they have vanished, all in rhyme. Young readers are invited to speculate about where the animals might be, then to join in when they are discovered. Both zookeepers are relieved to find their animals, and to join in the shenanigans. There are plenty of animals to identify, and rhythms to replicate. Recommended for pre-schoolers.

The Great Zoo Hullabaloo!, Mark Carthew ill Anil Tortop New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9781925059786

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Rose’s Red Boots by Maura Finn, ill Karen Erasmus

When Rose and Banjo started out the day was bright and new,
The clouds small puffs of fairy floss against the dazzling blue.
A gentle breeze brushed though the trees and made their branches sway.
And …

Rose and her puppy Banjo are ready for a day flying Rose’s kite. They set off from the house. Along the way there are streams to ford, hills to climb, mud to jump in. At the top, Rose flies her kite until the weather changes and they run away home. The little red boots of the title offer a regular refrain. Illustrations are loose black pencil outline with soft watercolours, a mix of full colour pages and vignettes set in white. This almost square hardback has paw- and boot-prints on front and back, with the title in the red of Rose’s boots. Endpapers show Rose and Banjo and kite-fun.

Rose and her puppy have a plan for the day but as so often is the case with small people, the journey is as important as the destination and the activity planned. The refrain will soon have young listeners joining in. Rose’s Red Boots is a celebration of free play and discovery, and the illustrations are delightful. A spread with Rose and Banjo huddled under a tree when lightning strikes offers the opportunity to discuss safe storm havens. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Rose’s Red Boots, Maura Finn ill Karen Erasmus New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 9780957988446

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

My Brother is a Beast by Damon Young, ill Peter Carnavas

Some brothers fish in cloaks,
casting off on drizzly docks.
Some brothers climb in kilts,
hiking round the highland rocks.

The narrator of ‘My Brother is a Beast’ is a younger sister. The reader doesn’t meet her until they also meet the ‘beast’ of a brother. First we meet other brothers who do other things. This narrator idolises the brother who spends time with her, does crazy things. She’s not completely sure about his slime monster concoction, but she loves playing with him. Illustrations are both real and fantastical, and text curls around images. End-papers show the beast of a brother at play.

My Brother is a Beast’, a new title in a picture book series about family members. Previous titles include ‘My Sister is a Superhero’ and ‘My Nanna is a Ninja’. ‘My Brother is a Beast’ celebrates the wonderfulness of brothers They might be weird, they might be wild, but they are for loving and for playing with. Young readers may recognise characteristics of their own brothers, or be encouraged to articulate what it is that makes their own brothers wonderful. They may also be encouraged to invent a new brother who is also a beast. Recommended for early-schoolers.

My Brother is a Beast, Damon Young ill Peter Carnavas
UQP 2017 ISBN: 9781702259579

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

I Love You by Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun

Ms Giraffe is Little Badger’s teacher.
She is very kind and very clever.
One day, Ms Giraffe writes some new words on the whiteboard.
Wo ai ni
Ti amo
Je táime
Ich Liebe dich
Te quiero

Little Badger loves school and when her teacher teaches them how to say ‘I love you!’ in multiple languages, she’s very happy to practice. She says ‘I love you!’ all the way home. At home, she continues, practising, practising in different languages all the way through dinner, her bath and to bedtime. Her parents are caught up in her enthusiasm and reaffirm their love in different languages. All characters are represented as animals. Illustrations are stylised, pencil and paint. End-papers reflect some of the elements Little Badger loves.
I Love You’ was originally published in China and the first alt-language offering in this new edition is appropriately in Chinese (both phonetic and in script). Ms Giraffe introduces the idea that all languages express the same emotion, but with different sounds. Little Badger applies her new knowledge generously. This is a lovely book, with friendly illustrations and will be enjoyed at home, in kindergartens and in schools to introduce different languages. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

I Love You, Xiao Mao ill Tang Yun
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059762

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Baby Band by Diane Jackson Hill ill Giuseppe Poli

The apartment block loomed cold and quiet.
The same people had lived there a long time.
They did not know each other and they
never spoke – not even to say hello.

No one speaks to anyone in the apartment block. They go about their business separately and in as quietly as possible. Then a baby arrives in the apartment block. The baby is not quiet, not a bit, no matter how his mother tries. He cries. And cries. Until one day he finds the pots and pans. The crying stops and the music begins. One by one, the other occupants of the floor join in. Together they create music. And a community. Illustrations are loose outline filled with colour, often set in white. End papers offer music in the park – two versions.

The apartment block is a collection of separate people who seldom interact – until the baby arrives. The solution to the baby’s crying is music and accidentally at first, then intentionally, it brings the individuals of the block together as a community. Young readers will love the notion that music can be made with whatever is at hand – or foot. Kinder and early years teachers can use this story to introduce music to their classrooms. Young readers will also enjoy looking at the difference between the front end-papers and the rear end-papers, and finding all the apartment-dwellers. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Baby Band, Diane Jackson Hill ill Giuseppe Poli
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059779

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles by Alice Rex ill Angela Perrini

Ava sat at her desk, gazing at the board.
‘Ava,’ said Mrs Cook. ‘Where are your glasses today?’
Ava looked down at her schoolbag.
She hated her glasses.

Ava hates her glasses, and sometimes chooses not to wear them, even when wearing them would help her to read. Ava’s teacher sympathises and rather than tell her to put them on, she opens a book of fairy tales. One by one, Mrs Cook suggests that all of the main characters in her favourite stories, could have avoided their troubles by wearing their glasses. By the end, Ava is adding to the stories, and seeing her own life more clearly. Glasses have become the hero of every story. Illustrations are black pencil and block colour set in pastel backgrounds.

Ava would rather not see than use her glasses, when they mark her out as different. Her teacher uses fairy tales to suggest that wearing her glasses will make her the hero of her own story. In a classroom, Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles offers the opportunity to have students reframe fairy tales for different outcomes. At home, it could form the basis of conversations about the strengths in difference. And young spectacle-wearers may enjoy seeing themselves reflected in story.

Recommended for early-schoolers.

Ava’s Spectacular Spectacles, Alice Rex ill Angela Perrini
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059984

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise (Bk3) by Sally Murphy

‘But I don’t know what to paaaaack,’ my friend Lucy wails down the phone.
I laugh. ‘Don’t panic. You can always borrow my stuff if you forget anything. I’m just so glad you’re coming with us!’
I switch the phone to my other ear as I look around my bedroom, making sure I haven’t forgotten anything in my own packing. ‘It will be nice and warm at Crystal Bay, so you won’t need much.’ I glance at my suitcase. ‘I’ve packed my swimmers, shorts, t-shirts, pyjamas …’

Sage Cookson is the daughter of famous TV chefs and has a wonderful life travelling around with her parents. But she misses her best friend, Lucy, so she’s excited that Lucy is joining them for this trip. They are off to a seaside town and there’s the promise of beach and great food. There’s also a mystery as an old foe reappears. It might be just coincidence, but Nancy is no more friendly than when last they met.

‘Fishy Surprise’ is episode three in this series for young independent readers. Sage’s life is much more exciting than that of many other ten-year-olds, but it also has its challenges. Not spending enough time with her friends is one of them. Not this time. With Lucy beside her, Sage has an accomplice as she works to solve this mystery. Young readers will thrill to the life Sage leads and empathise with her travails. Themes around family, friendship, loyalty round out these stories and add filling to the pastry. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Fishy Surprise, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059755

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

How Many Dinosaurs Deep? By Ben Kitchin ill Vicky Fieldhouse

Jim was learning how to swim. He had just gone up from the baby pool to the middle-sized pool.
‘Don’t worry,’ said his mum. ‘It’s not that deep. I don’t think the middle-sized pool would even come up to a Stegosaurus’s knee!’
‘Really?’ said Jim as he edged away from the water.
‘A Stegosaurus must be big! How deep can water get?’

Jim is a bit apprehensive about the deeper water in the middle-sized pool and his swimming lessons. He’s also obviously keen on dinosaurs. Mum relates the depth of this and other water to a scale he can visualise – that of dinosaurs. As he questions his mum and she answers in ‘dinosaur scale’, he gradually overcomes his fear of this new pool. A final spread at the completion of the story offers dinosaur information and images. Illustrations are in watercolour and black pencil.

Dinosaurs are fascinating for so many children, and many master the complex pronunciations and collect myriad facts long before they can write those names or the information. Here, a realistic fear is overcome by connecting it to Jim’s fascination for these extinct animals. Mum relates this experience to Jim’s interest and diverts his fear into curiosity about other waters and their depth relative to different dinosaurs. On one level this is a story about fear of water, but it also offers the opportunity to talk about science and measurement. And dinosaurs. Recommended for pre- and junior-primary readers.

How Many Dinosaurs Deep? Ken Kitchin ill Vicky Fieldhouse
New Frontier Publishing 2017 ISBN: 978925059731

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Happily Ever After: Beauty and the Beast ill Helen Magisson

There was once a rich merchant who had six children: three sons and three daughters. His youngest daughter Bell was called ‘Beauty’.
Everyone admired her.
The two eldest daughters went out to parties every night. They laughed at Beauty when she stayed at home to read books.

A retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ for younger readers, with full page whimsical illustrations on every opening. Text is large and language accessible.

Young readers will enjoy this gentle telling of the classic fairy tale, ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Brief enough to be read in a single bedtime session, the text is also accessible to independent readers. Part of a new series from New Frontier, this version of an old favourite is sure to find favour with lovers of fairy tales.

Happily Ever After: Beauty and the Beast, ill Helen Magisson
New Frontier Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925059809

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth by Sally Murphy

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

‘Lucy! Your mum’s here,’ my mum calls up the stairs.

‘Already?’ Lucy pulls a face. ‘I was hoping she’d be late.’

I glance at the clock and smile. ‘She is!’

We’d been having so much fun together that we didn’t notice how late it was. We’d been talking, and listening to music and surfing the net, and laughing and doing all the things we don’t get to do together when I’m away.

Sage Cookson travels a lot. Her parents are television cooks and she goes where they go. She loves the adventure and the travel but sometimes misses her friend Lucy. In this second Sage Cookson adventure, Sage travels with her parents to Harmon Island, an island off the coast of Tasmania. There, they will film an episode about the bakery and their amazing pies. But Bettina, one of the bakery’s owners loses a ring and thinks Sage has something to do with it. Sage has to work quickly to solve the mystery before others also begin to believe she is responsible.

‘Ring of Truth’ is the second instalment in this new series from New Frontier for independent readers. Sage is a normal, sometimes messy, child who would rather be solving mysteries than doing her homework. She enjoys her travels with her family and their tv crew, but also misses time with her friends, especially Lucy. In each book, there is a mystery to be solved, and Sage is the girl for the job. She is observant, quick-thinking, caring. And there is food. Good food. Great fun: interesting settings and some sleuthing. Recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Ring of Truth, Sally Murphy New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059748

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com