Hootie the Cutie by Michelle Worthington ill Giuseppe Poli

Hootie the owl lived in enchanted wood.

She had big brown eyes as wide as saucers.

Her friends called her Hootie the Cutie because

she was the smallest owl in the wood.

Hootie the owl lived in enchanted wood.

She had big brown eyes as wide as saucers.

Her friends called her Hootie the Cutie because

she was the smallest owl in the wood.

Hootie the Cutie is the smallest owl in the wood and her wise owl father is determined to keep her safe. Hootie would love to join in some of the fun things happening in her magical forest. But comes a day when even Papa Owl is stumped. Something surprising and a little worrying is happening deep in the cave. Hootie is the only one brave enough, and small enough to investigate. She finds another small magical creature who needs help. Illustrations are full warm colour with loose drawn pencil characters, while Hootie herself is prominent in pink.

Being small, and possibly also because she is female, everyone seems to think that Hootie needs protection from the rough and tumble of everyday life in a magical wood. Certainly her father does. And while his protection is well motivated, it doesn’t allow her to develop her own skills or to take her own place in her community. Hootie is determined too and when her chance come, it is Hootie who shows great bravery in face of the unknown. Recommended for young readers and those who need to know that size doesn’t necessarily preclude bravery.

Hootie the Cutie, Michelle Worthington ill Giuseppe Poli New Frontier Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781921928000

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Jonathan by Peter Carnavas ill Amanda Francey

Jonathan’s father was sweeping the floor

When all of a sudden …

ROAR!

‘Not scary, Jonathan.’

Jonathan’s father was sweeping the floor

When all of a sudden …

ROAR!

‘Not scary, Jonathan.’

Jonathan loves to dress up. He loves to jump out and surprise people. He has some great costumes. But one after another the members of his family declare that he is ‘not scary’. Jonathan feels like giving up, but as he walks away in defeat, he encounters a dinosaur. Together they plan the best ‘scare’ of all. And it works a treat! Illustrations are pencil and soft watercolour and depict a suburban neighbourhood. Images are set in white paper, keeping the focus on the characters. Endpapers with soft green stripes also show Jonathan first in disappointment then in renewed good humour.

‘Jonathan’ is a very spare rhyming text, and the story would be familiar one to many families. As the family go about their daily tasks and activities, Jonathan appears to mostly entertain himself. Occasionally he appears in his new costume (made from items easily found in most homes) to try to scare them (to start a game?). The illustrations convey Jonathan’s emotions clearly, his growing disappointment at his lack of ability to engage his mother, father or sister. When all seems lost, and things seem to be out of his control, he is able to rally and plan the best trick of all. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

 

Jonathan, Peter Carnavas ill Amanda Francey New Frontier Publishing 2014 ISBN: 9781921928611

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Clementine’s Walk by Annie White

Clementine was very bored,

with nothing left to do.

Then looking up she saw her lead,

and that gave her a clue.

Clementine was very bored,

with nothing left to do.

Then looking up she saw her lead,

and that gave her a clue.

Clementine has a loving family but when she wants a walk, she discovers that no one is willing or able to come with her. More than that, they don’t really seem too interested in her asking the question. Clementine encounters Mum, Dad, Nana and more but they all have reasons to stay just where they are. Clementine gives up. Gradually the family finish what they’ve been doing and begin to look for Clementine but she seems to have vanished. Illustrations are pencil and watercolours in soft shades set in white space. The text is gently rhyming. Front endpapers reflect the interests of all Clementine’s family and the end endpapers suggest the route the walkers finally take.

‘Clementine’s Walk’ will resonate with many dog-owning families. Dogs just want to be part of the family and although they might not have speech, they have ways of communicating. Hardcover, set in soft orange/apricot with white titles, Clementine is immediately introduced as playful and enthusiastic. She appears friendly and approachable. ‘Clementine’s Walk’ would be a good introduction for children not quite sure about the exuberance of dogs. Current dog-owners will recognise their own dog’s antics in Clementine’s. ‘Clementine’s Walk’ is a good starting place for generating discussions about the joys and responsibilities of pet ownership.  In addition, it may well stimulate writing activities about individual dog stories. Recommended for preschool and early-schoolers.

 



Clementine’s Walk
, Annie White New Frontier Publishing 2013 ISBN: 9781921928475

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

 

Matilda Saves Santa Claus by Alex Field ill Sophie Norsa

Matilda Mouse lived deep in the forest.

She poured the last of her milk into a thimble and left her only mince pie out for Santa.

She hung up her stocking and looked around her threadbare house.

More than anything, she wanted a Christmas tree.

Matilda Mouse lived deep in the forest.

She poured the last of her milk into a thimble and left her only mince pie out for Santa.

She hung up her stocking and looked around her threadbare house.

More than anything, she wanted a Christmas tree.

Matilda Mouse is poor but she prepares her last food for Santa, who will be visiting soon. She goes into the cold winter forest to find herself a tree. Narrowly avoiding being eaten by an owl, she happens across Rudolph. He tells her that Santa and his sleigh are caught in vines. Matilda abandons her search for a Christmas tree and secretly helps Santa. She’s too tired to do anything afterwards except crawl into bed. At dawn on Christmas day, she wakes to a very big surprise. Illustrations are soft and loose and combine traditional Christmas colours with soft mauves and blues reflecting the winter world.

Virtue, so the saying goes, is its own reward, but that’s not a message that’s very easy to convey. Matilda Saves Santa Claus introduces this notion as poor but hardworking Matilda seeks out a Christmas tree even if there will be nothing to put under it. She without hesitation abandons her quest to help Santa. It’s unstated, but she is clearly acting to facilitate Christmas deliveries to all homes, not just her own. She doesn’t look for reward, indeed she hides from Santa, but in the morning she is rewarded handsomely. Recommended for preschool and early-schoolers.

 

Matilda Saves Santa Clauss, Alex Field ill Sophie Norsa 2013 ISBN: 9781921928604

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Matilda Saves Santa Claus, by Alex Field & Sophie Norsa

‘We’re stuck,’ said Rudolph. ‘Santa’s sleigh is caught in the forest vines.’

Matilda Mouse lives alone deep in the forest. She doesn’t have much, but one thing she desperately wants is a Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve she goes out searching for a perfect tree – but instead she finds Santa’s sleigh, caught in some vines. She may be small, but Matilda proves that she is both clever and strong, as she chews her way through the vines and frees the sleigh. Then, on Christmas morning, she wakes to find an exciting surprise – Santa has left her a tree and plenty of presents.

Matilda Saves Santa Claus is a gently exciting Christmas tale which will appeal to youngsters around the world. Matilda is brave and resourceful, and her willingness to help is duly rewarded. The story is brought to life in delightful water colour and ink illustrations, with the double page spread showing Rudolph nose to nose with little Matilda especially sweet.

Suitable for pre school aged readers, this would make a lovely Christmas gift.

 

Matilda Saves Santa Claus, by Alex Field, illustrated by Sophie Norsa
New Frontier, 2013
ISBN 9781921928604

Available from good bookstores or online.

Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend by Tania McCartney

Young Caroline Jones tucked a auburn curl behind one ear and arranged a chain of tiny wooden dolls on the windowsill of her family’s front room. Her tongue played at the corner of her mouth in concentration. Outside the window, faded roses crowded the sill. Through the petals, Caroline caught a glimpse of her father, William Jones, working in the garden.

Caroline caught sight of her father sprinting across the yard towards two local men who were lifting a wounded soldier from the carriage. The soldier had a rickety old crutch splayed at his side, and as her father helped lift him the soldier’s face twisted with pain. One of his legs was missing.

Young Caroline Jones tucked a auburn curl behind one ear and arranged a chain of tiny wooden dolls on the windowsill of her family’s front room. Her tongue played at the corner of her mouth in concentration. Outside the window, faded roses crowded the sill. Through the petals, Caroline caught a glimpse of her father, William Jones, working in the garden.

Caroline caught sight of her father sprinting across the yard towards two local men who were lifting a wounded soldier from the carriage. The soldier had a rickety old crutch splayed at his side, and as her father helped lift him the soldier’s face twisted with pain. One of his legs was missing.

Caroline Chisholm was born into a large, loving and socially liberal family in England in the early 1800s. From an early age, she was aware that life was different for many other people. She developed a keen interest in travel, but also in guiding those who she was sure with a little help could improve their own lives. Her work started on a small scale, helping her mother support families around their home. After she married, she lived in India for a while before travelling to Australia. There, as in India, she found girls and women who lacked the skills necessary to gain meaningful work. For a year, she helped train and place women in towns and regions around Sydney. But her work broadened over time so that she could help more and more people. Her policies helped bring families to Australia. Most openings are accompanied by colour illustrations from Pat Reynolds.

‘Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend’ is a new offering in the Aussie Heroes series from New Frontier Publishing. Each showcases an influential Australian, who may or may not be well known to a present generation of young readers. ‘Caroline Chisholm’ introduces the child Caroline, showing the foundations that led to her adult work. A time line at the end of the book provides the ‘facts and figures’ allowing the narrative to read like a story without being bogged down with numbers. The narrative mixes non-fiction with fiction, providing a warm introduction to a character who has sometimes polarised historians. There are hooks here that will encourage further research and exploration. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

 

Caroline Chisholm: The Emigrant’s Friend, Tania McCartney ill Pat Reynolds
New Frontier Publishing ISBN: 9781921928482

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

The Boy on the Page by Peter Carnavas

One quiet morning, a small boy landed on the page.

At first there was nothing else.

Then very slowly, a world began to appear.

One quiet morning, a small boy landed on the page.

At first there was nothing else.

Then very slowly, a world began to appear.

An unnamed small boy tumbles onto an empty white page. As each page turns, his world develops. First there are plants and animals, then people and buildings. Initially he is an observer, but gradually he begins to participate and to experience. Some of his experiences require his input, others require him to just be. He grows to manhood, meets a girl, builds a house, a life, a family. He wonders though, what is the meaning of his existence on the page. Why is he here? A pivotal experience, where he tries to leave the page but lands straight back on it, provides the answer. Illustrations are watercolour and pencil and include lots of white space.

‘Why am I here?’ is a very big question for a picture book. The boy in these pages ponders this as he wanders through his world, learning, growing and developing a sense of how to be. There are many good things in his life, indeed he is very fortunate to have friends, family, a home. But in the midst of good fortune, he is not as firmly anchored to the world by a belief in his purpose as he would like to be. In attempting to leave the page, then returning, he finally understands his purpose. Children may read this literally, but there are many other interpretations, particularly for his attempt to leave the page. In this journey through life, if we are fortunate, we have many companions. Hopefully, we remember that. The boy/man has two animal companions throughout – perhaps symbols of his personality/state of mind? Recommended for early primary-schoolers.

The Boy on the Page, Peter Carnavas New Frontier Publishing 2013 ISBN: 9781921928468

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Between the Pages by Joan van Loon ill Chantal Stewart

The wind blew, the rain swept.

Two brave boys crept into the forest. Their names were Billy and Jack.

Palms stretched like huge umbrellas over their heads.

Trees, taller than giants, rose beside them.

The wind blew, the rain swept.

Two brave boys crept into the forest. Their names were Billy and Jack.

Palms stretched like huge umbrellas over their heads.

Trees, taller than giants, rose beside them.

Two young boys, Billy and Jack, inhabit a book. They encounter Australian animals large and small and all seem as fascinated by the boys as the boys are with what they see. The pace escalates with each page-turn, each new animal-type. The boys encounter bats, pythons, spiders and more in their journey through the bush. Excitement and fear in equal measure accompany each ‘page turn’, until the boys fall through a cloud of butterflies into their beds, where they are reading the book of their adventure. Immediately they want to begin again. Illustrations are watercolour and a combination of vignettes and full colour spreads. The bush is dense and lush, the landscape rich, the animals curious and surprised.

Between the Pages imagines an exciting life, if the reader could actually, rather than metaphorically, be immersed in a story. The two young characters are wide-eyed and enthusiastic as they discover the animals who inhabit the pages. They don’t know all about each animal, and decide that observing from a distance is safer than staying in any one opening. They carry with them a book, which only at the end is revealed as being the book they have entered. As the pace increases, text becomes more spare, until they explode back into ‘reality’ via butterflies. Although they seem to be in pajamas, it may be that this is a morning book, encouraging flights of fancy rather than a bedtime book! Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Between the Pages

Between the Pages, Joan van Loon ill Chantal Stewart
New Frontier Publishing 2013
ISBN: 9781921928444

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or online.

Silver the Silly Sorcerer by Candice Lemon-Scott ill Janet Wolf

Silver is not a very skilled sorcerer, in fact very little of his magic works out as he planned. In a family of skilled magic-makers, this makes him feel even worse. His younger sister, Star, is already ahead of him at Spell School. And if he doesn’t pass his Eggs (basic spell) test this time, his father has threatened to send him off to be a circus magician – the ultimate indignity for a boy who wants to be like his hero, Merlin. Silver does fail his Eggs, and he with his snake Slither are duly dispatched to work at the circus. Despite – in fact because of – his magic-going-wrong talents, he becomes very successful and revives the fortunes of the ailing circus. But though he craved success, Silver is not entirely happy with how he’s achieved it. And there’s still the matter of the failed Eggs test … Colour illustrations are dispersed throughout the story.

Silver searched until he found a big area of muddy muck. There must be a toad in here somewhere, he thought as he oozed his way into the mudflat. He wished that he’d worn waterproof pants and gumboots. But seeing as he was wearing a long cloak instead – as all sorcerers do – he felt himself getting heavier and heavier as his cloak got muddier and muddier. Before he knew it, he was stuck.

He wiggled this way. He wiggled that way. But every time he moved he just seemed to get more and more bogged down in the mud. It began to get dark as the sun set over the mudflats. Silver started to panic.

He was going to be stuck forever. But then he remembered. He was a sorcerer. All he needed to do was make a spell.

Silver is not a very skilled sorcerer, in fact very little of his magic works out as he planned. In a family of skilled magic-makers, this makes him feel even worse. His younger sister, Star, is already ahead of him at Spell School. And if he doesn’t pass his Eggs (basic spell) test this time, his father has threatened to send him off to be a circus magician – the ultimate indignity for a boy who wants to be like his hero, Merlin. Silver does fail his Eggs, and he with his snake Slither are duly dispatched to work at the circus. Despite – in fact because of – his magic-going-wrong talents, he becomes very successful and revives the fortunes of the ailing circus. But though he craved success, Silver is not entirely happy with how he’s achieved it. And there’s still the matter of the failed Eggs test … Colour illustrations are dispersed throughout the story.

Some families have high expectations for their children, and Silver’s family fits into that. Silver’s parents are both skilled, and even his younger sister is better at magic than he is. He tries to be like them, but somehow it doesn’t work. Lemon-Scott uses humour to suggest that each of us must find our own path to success, even if it diverges from that of our family. Left to his own devices, Silver does find skills to make him famous, before acknowledging that there are other things in life beyond fame. Like being with family. Being yourself, whatever that may mean. Silver the Silly Sorcerer is a new offering in the Little Rockets series from New Frontier Publishing. Recommended for newly confident readers.

Silver, the Silly Sorcerer

Silver, the Silly Sorcerer, Candice Lemon-Scott ill Janet Wolf
New Frontier Publishing 2013
ISBN: 9781921928499

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

Available from good bookstores or online.

Alice and the Airy Fairy by Margaret Clark, ill Emma Stuart

Alice’s family are hosting Mum’s cousin Mary, who Dad describes as being an ‘airy fairy’. Alice is keen to discover if Mary is a real fairy. Her school friend, Zoe, is not convinced, but Alice thinks there are sufficient clues not to give up hope. Mary is certainly surrounded by mystery. She is also warm, friendly and a little bit sad. Day by day Alice learns a bit more about Mary, although sometimes what she learns makes her even more mysterious. Colour illustrations are scattered throughout.

My Mum has a cousin called Mary.

We don’t see her very often. She moves from town to town. In fact, we don’t hear from her much.

One day Mary phoned to tell Mum that she had problems, and asked if she could stay with us for a while until she was problem-free.

‘Of course,’ said Mum.

Dad pulled a face. ‘Mary’s such an airy fairy,’ he said. ‘I hope she doesn’t stay too long.’

‘Airy fairy? Is Cousin Mary a real fairy?’ I asked.

Alice’s family are hosting Mum’s cousin Mary, who Dad describes as being an ‘airy fairy’. Alice is keen to discover if Mary is a real fairy. Her school friend, Zoe, is not convinced, but Alice thinks there are sufficient clues not to give up hope. Mary is certainly surrounded by mystery. She is also warm, friendly and a little bit sad. Day by day Alice learns a bit more about Mary, although sometimes what she learns makes her even more mysterious. Colour illustrations are scattered throughout.

Children often misinterpret things their parents say, taking them literally. And when Mary is as different to their family as a fairy would be, it is easy to see why Alice is sure Mary must be a real fairy. Truth blurs with magic sometimes, and Alice’s investigations allow her to learn about Mary in a way that maintains some of the illusion of magic. Ultimately, Alice helps Mary to find a magical/practical solution to her dilemma. This is a new offering in the Little Rockets series from New Frontier Publishing, and is for newly confident readers. Titles feature short chapters and illustrations. They are accessible texts for readers traversing the plain between reality and magic. Recommended for lower primary readers.

Alice and the Airy Fairy

<a href=”http://www.fishpond.com.au/product_info.php?ref=271&id=9781921928451&affiliate_banner_id=1″ target=”_blank”>Alice and the Airy Fairy</a>, Margaret Clark ill Emma Stuart

New Frontier Publishing 2013

ISBN: 9781921928451

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

www.clairesaxby.com

 

Available from good bookstores or <a href=”http://www.fishpond.com.au/product_info.php?ref=271&id=9781921928451&affiliate_banner_id=1″ target=”_blank”>online</a>.