Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape by Sally Murphy

‘Bye Sage! Don’t forget me, will you?’

‘As if!’ My friend Lucy is so totally not the kind of friend you could forget. Even if you wanted to, which I don’t.

We’ve been friends since we met in the book corner on the first day of kindy.

‘Bye Sage! Don’t forget me, will you?’

‘As if!’ My friend Lucy is so totally not the kind of friend you could forget. Even if you wanted to, which I don’t.

We’ve been friends since we met in the book corner on the first day of kindy.

Sage travels around Australia with her parents who front a TV series about cooking. She loves the travel, even if she misses her best friend, Lucy. But her parents have relented and she now has a mobile phone so they can keep in touch – when they are in range. This adventure sees the family and crew in south west Western Australia where they meet a chocolatier, Marco and his assistant, Nancy. The chocolate the duo make is delicious and Sage enjoys learning about cocoa and where it’s grown. But there’s something not quite right here.

‘Sweet Escape’ is the first title in a new series for young readers from New Frontier Publishing. Sage misses her friend when they travel, but she loves her adventures with her parents and the crew of the TV show. The series showcases different parts of Australia as well as different foods, while Sage unravels mysteries. Sage Cookson (with a bit of help from her family) offers bite-sized adventures recommended for independent readers.

Sage Cookson’s Sweet Escape, Sally Murphy
New Frontier Publishing 2016
ISBN: 9781925059618

Review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Happily Ever After: The Ugly Duckling illustrated by Annie White

A long time ago a duck sat on her nest, waiting for her eggs to hatch. The sun was shining and all the other ducks were swimming in the water.

Mother Duck wanted her eggs to hatch so she could enjoy the sunshine. She didn’t have to wait for long. One by one, the eggs hatched.

Everyone admired Mother Duck’s four little ducklings.

They ran around in circles. ‘Quack quack quack!’ they said.

A long time ago a duck sat on her nest, waiting for her eggs to hatch. The sun was shining and all the other ducks were swimming in the water.

Mother Duck wanted her eggs to hatch so she could enjoy the sunshine. She didn’t have to wait for long. One by one, the eggs hatched.

Everyone admired Mother Duck’s four little ducklings.

They ran around in circles. ‘Quack quack quack!’ they said.

When Mother Duck’s eggs hatch, four of her babies are beautiful yellow and quack just like her. When her final egg hatches, long after the others, she discovers ‘quite the ugliest duckling she’s ever seen’. Instead of ‘quack’, this ‘duckling’ honks. None of the other animals know quite what to make of this newcomer. The rabbits are scared, the hens laugh and the cows chase him around the paddocks. Even his nest mates shun him. When Mother Duck takes her babies for a swim, Ugly Duckling walks away. He tries without success to find a new home, until he happens upon some baby swans. They welcome him, as does their mother. Illustrations are pencil and watercolour, in soft colours. Endpapers feature Ugly Duckling and ducklings.

The Ugly Duckling is part of a new series from New Frontier Publishing called Happily Ever After. The story is simplified for a young audience and presented as hardcover picture book, with large text and only a few words on each opening. Illustrations are gentle even when Ugly Duckling is outcast. After a few readings, preschoolers will be able to ‘read’ it for themselves.

Happily Ever After: the Ugly Duckling Annie White
New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059526

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

 

The Dreaming Tree by Jo Oliver

The Dreaming Tree

Oak trees can live

for hundreds of years.

Ours must be very old.

Nana remembers it

from when she was young.

Hearts of oak

from little acorns grow.

The Dreaming Tree

Oak trees can live

for hundreds of years.

 

Ours must be very old.

Nana remembers it

from when she was young.

 

Hearts of oak

from little acorns grow.

 

TThe Dreaming Tree is a collection of poems about Australia, contemporary and historic. From gum leaves to prawning, landscape to frost, this collection covers a wide range of subjects. There are poems as old as the land and as new as children playing. A note at the end suggesting readers write their own poems, using their world as inspiration. Each poem is accompanied by illustrations, each spread sets the image as if it were a photo in an album. The background is ‘stained’ and ‘torn’.

Poetry is like a snapshot, a photo taken to catch a single moment, a single idea. This collection is set out like an old photo album, perhaps suggesting that each poem is ageless, timeless. Jo Oliver suggests that poems have no rules, and while there are those who would disagree, it’s a great way for children to begin writing. Freeing young writers from the assumed obligation to rhyme removes one level of challenge and hopefully will inspire them to ‘have a go’. Individually, these poems look at single ideas, together they offer a starting place for viewing Australia and Australians. Recommended for primary readers and for educators wanting examples of nature poems.

The Dreaming Tree, Jo Oliver
New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059489

 

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Take Ted Instead by Cassandra Webb ill Amanda Francey

It’s time for bed, sleepy head.

No, no, take RED instead.

It’s time for bed, sleepy head.

No, no, take RED instead.

It’s bed time, but a small child is resisting. But in the interests of helpful, other options are offered to Mum. Each of these options rhymes with ‘head’. Each introduces other occupants of the house, other aspects of the life of this particular family and their neighbourhood. Finally, Mum suggests that Ted might be lonely if he is in the bed alone. This provides the trigger for a final trooping upstairs to bed. Illustrations are pencil and watercolour and offer their own narrative and extra elements to identify. Endpapers feature a paper plane flying and landing, and other elements of the child’s life.

Take Ted Instead is a bedtime story. A story of bedtime that is, full of the procrastinations many young children employ to delay the inevitable. It’s not that bed is an unwelcome place, just that staying up seems a more attractive option. Here, the procrastination takes on a playful tone with each of the offered alternatives rhyming with ‘head’. A young pre-reader will soon be able to make guesses about the ‘head’ rhyme on the page. Recommended for preschoolers.

Take Ted Instead Cassandra Webb ill Amanda Francey
New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781925059533

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

SuperMum by Leah Russack ill Anil Tortop

My mum has secret superpowers.

She can do amazing things.

SuperMum by Leah Russack ill Anil Tortop

My mum has secret superpowers.

She can do amazing things.

Told in the first person, a child offers some Mum-based superpowers. Mum transforms with each superpower, from X-ray vision to mindreading. Mum is a whole range of superheroes not just one. Only in the final page, does she revert to her original form for the best superpower of all. Illustrations are loose, humourous and colourful.

Supermum offers an appreciation of many of the things that mums do well. The child portrayed is not specifically gendered, and text is also gender-neutral, allowing all children to identify themselves in the story. Illustrations offer humour for both child and adult reader, while text font and size alters to support the particular superpower being demonstrated. Pre-readers will soon be able to ‘read’ this story for themselves, matching the activity portrayed to the super powers described. There is opportunity to extend discussion by considering other superpowers they see in parents, family and friends. Recommended for pre-schoolers

Supermum, Leah Russack ill Anil Tortop

New Frontier Publishing 2016 ISBN: 9781760158545

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Red Feather by Ben Kitchin ill Owen Swan

One day, Claude, Shelby, William and Maya went to the seaside together.

Claude found a red feather.

It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

One day, Claude, Shelby, William and Maya went to the seaside together.

Claude found a red feather.

It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.

Four young children go to the beach. One finds a fine red feather which becomes his most treasured possession. He plays with it, completely entranced until he is very hungry. Then his friend Shelby offers him food in exchange for his feather. Reluctantly, he relinquishes his treasure. Shelby is then mesmerised by feather play. And so it goes, until all four children have played with the feather. But despite its marvellousness, in the end, the feather is a poor substitute for companionship. So the children play together with the feather. Illustrations are pencil and watercolour and mostly sit in white space, combining full page and vignette images. End papers show feathers red-on-white at the front, white-on-red at the back.

The Red Feather is a story about sharing. Each of the children covets the feather and at first it’s all they need. But before long, it’s not enough. Other needs overwhelm, and although each misses the wonderful feather, they trade it for something else (food, shelter). The feather seems to have altered their ability to play collaboratively, and each becomes mired in loneliness and wanting. But they resolve their dilemma and find a way to share the feather. Then they can get back to enjoying their time on the beach, playing together. The endpapers show the feather faded – perhaps not quite as valuable as when first discovered. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

The Red Feather, Ben Kitchin & Owen Swan
New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9780957988439

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Keepers of the Crystals 2: Eve and the Fiery Phoenix by Jess Black

‘Race you!’ Eve took off down the wide footpath that led to the town centre and main beach, her long black curls bouncing madly as she ran. She could hear her friend Oscar sprinting after her. It didn’t’ take him long to catch up.

‘Face it, Eve,’ Oscar teased, ‘you’ll never beat me!’

Eve scowled as Oscar overtook her. He could be so annoying!

Even though she felt as if her chest might burst, Eve managed to stay on Oscar’s tail.

‘Race you!’ Eve took off down the wide footpath that led to the town centre and main beach, her long black curls bouncing madly as she ran. She could hear her friend Oscar sprinting after her. It didn’t’ take him long to catch up.

‘Face it, Eve,’ Oscar teased, ‘you’ll never beat me!

Eve scowled as Oscar overtook her. He could be so annoying!

Even though she felt as if her chest might burst, Eve managed to stay on Oscar’s tail.

They raced each other the four blocks from Eve’s grandmother’s house to the sleepy main street of Marigold. Oscar reached the low stone wall above the beach ahead of Eve. It’s holidays and Eve and Oscar were planning a swim. But a sudden rain shower sends them (and Eve’s grandmother Silvie) racing for shelter inside an odd shop. While they look around Eve discovers a crystal and she and Oscar are whisked off on a magical adventure. They find themselves in a jungle full of tigers and other creatures. This world is shrouded in darkness and the jungle is dying. If they ever want to return home, they have to solve the mystery of the growing darkness.

Eve and the Fiery Phoenix is a second title in a new series from New Frontier, with a third due for release late in 2015. The two main characters have quite different interests but it is in working together that they achieve success in their adventures. Eve’s story begins in the contemporary world, but they are transported to a more magical place with the help of a crystal. Their quest is important for the world they visit but imperative for them to return to their own world. Eve is a proactive hero and Oscar an able sidekick. Recommended for newly-confident readers ready for a short novel.

Keepers of the Crystals 2:Eve and the Fiery Phoenix , Jess Black
New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059441

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Onesie Mumsie by Alice Rex ill Amanda Francey

‘Onesie Mumsie!

Onesie Mumsie!’

‘Whose bedtime is it?’

‘Onesie Mumsie!

Onesie Mumsie!’

‘Whose bedtime is it?

A small girl is resisting bedtime. Although it might be bedtime for little girls, and even for little rabbits, it’s clearly not bedtime for some of her other onesie-inspired friends. Mum, who may or may not be planning a sit down with a mug of hot chocolate, is happy to play along. Illustrations move from the realistic to the imaginary as different onesies inspire imaginative play. Mother and child enjoy their play until it seems the little girl is finally content to stay in bed. Now Mum can also go to bed. Illustrations are watercolour and pencil, set mostly in white space, although there are hints about what ‘adventure’ will follow. Cameo roles are played by the little girl’s favourite soft toys.

Onesie Mumsie! is a celebration of pre-bedtime games, a celebration of the one-on-one time that is so important for parent and child. The child initiates an activity and Mum rolls with it, joining in to vanquish the animals that appear on her bed. Cue cuddles, tickles and more. Young children will love the playfulness, and the illustrations offer an introduction to different habitats and potential discussions about animals and their habitats. (Tired parents might want to schedule reading to the weekend!) Recommended for pre-school children.

 

Onesie Mumsie!, Alice Rex ill Amanda Francey New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059243

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Last ANZAC by Gordon Winch ill Harriet Bailey

On a cold winter’s day James and his dad stepped off a plane in Tasmania.

James was going to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. The year was 2001.

On a cold winter’s day James and his dad stepped off a plane in Tasmania.

James was going to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. The year was 2001.

James and his dad travel to meet Alec Campbell, the last living Anzac. James is bubbling with questions about all sorts of aspects of war. He wants to know whether Campbell was injured, whether he was scared, what he and the other soldiers ate. Interspersed with the questions from James, the story of Alec Campbell’s war service is explored. Illustrations swap between the present and 1915, with the latter images shown either full page or surrounded by a border, a bit like an old photo. The last ‘present’ image, with Alec Campbell and James together is also presented as a photo, perhaps suggesting the lasting memory of their meeting.

The Last ANZAC is based on a true story of the meeting between James and Alec Campbell. It’s not easy to share the enormity of a war with young readers. Gordon Winch has put the reader in the story in the form of a character, James, who is about their age. This way James can ask the questions that a young reader might ask. Illustrations also present more information sure to generate more questions and opportunities for discussion either at home or in the classroom. ‘The Last ANZAC’ offers an introduction to WWI for early primary readers, showing them Gallipoli through the eyes of someone who was there. Endpapers include copies of wartime letters, postcards and envelopes.

 

The Last ANZAC, Gordon Winch ill Harriet Bailey New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059298

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Velveteen Rabbit by Marjery Williams Bianco ill Helene Magisson

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy’s stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.

The rabbit in The Velveteen Rabbitis a Christmas gift to a young boy. Although the Boy has many toys, he comes to love the Rabbit and for a long time they are close companions. Another toy in the nursery, the Skin Horse, tells the Rabbit that if a child really loves you, for a long time, then you become Real. The Rabbit longs to become Real, but there are many twists and turns along the path he wants to travel. Illustrations are in gentle blues and greens, lyrical and lovely. Endpapers offer two views of an empty toy room a

The Velveteen Rabbitwas first published in 1922 and has been a favourite of many young and old. This beautiful edition of the story about the magic of love is sure to win a new generation of fans. Readers will enjoy their visit to a different time, and empathise with the longings of a loved companion. Observant readers may also find extra details in the endpapers. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit, Marjery Williams Bianco ill Helene Magisson New Frontier Publishing 2015 ISBN: 9781925059304

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com