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

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