Mr Darcy, by Alex Field and Peter Carnavas

Mr Darcy, as most readers will know, was one of the main characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The story has been popular for many, many years appearing on television and in film. It has even been treated to a zombie makeover in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And here is a picture book version of the story, with Darcy as a duck. He is a pleasant enough character, but distant and a bit proud. He ignores an invitation to tea from Lizzy, because living as she does in a quite small park, she is unlikely to provide much company. Why then does he keep tripping and falling and crashing when she is near? He is polite but quite contained. But something changes his mind. Illustrations are Peter Carnavas’ trademark pencil-outlined gentle watercolours set in lots of white space.

Mr Darcy might seem an odd subject for a picture book, but it is really a story about learning not to judge by appearances. Lizzy’s manners initially fail to break through Darcy’s reserve, but she persists rather than giving up. Darcy’s friends Bingley and Caroline step in when Darcy’s insistence that he’s fine threatens to cause him harm, but only after Lizzy has come up with a plan. Lizzy is resolute but not pushy and Darcy eventually has to overcome his prejudices. This is a sweet picture book, that will also introduce new readers to a classic story. Recommended for pre-school and early school-age children.

Mr Darcy, Alex Field & Peter Carnavas
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 978921042836

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Nancy Bentley, by Tracey Hawkins

Nancy Bentley lives with her family at Port Arthur in Tasmania. When she is bitten by a snake, things are looking grim. There is no doctor nearby and no time to get her to one further away. Her father rows her out to a naval ship anchored just off-shore. The captain takes Nancy aboard but now he has his own dilemma – females are not allowed aboard ship. His solution is to admit Nancy as a sailor, making her the first Australian female sailor and saving her life. Jacqui Grantford’s illustrations are retro in style and fit the story perfectly. Endpapers are collaged extracts of actual historical documents.

Australians take many things for granted, one of them being access to medical services (in most parts of the country). But in times gone by, it was not always so. Today there are treatments for most snake bites too, but again, they are much more recent developments. Living in Australia has always required Australians to be resourceful and innovative, and in this case a father does what he needs to save his child . The Captain also responds in a human rather than an officious way, and finds a solution that obeys ‘the rules’ while saving a child’s life. The notion of a young girl sailor is novel and fascinating and it’s a great way to engage young readers with history. It shows that history is about real people living real lives, not just facts and figures that sit heavily on a page. Recommended for primary readers.

Nancy Bentley, Tracey Hawkins and Jacqui Grantford
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921042768

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Chase Through Venice, by Sally Gould & Laura Peterson

Marco dreams of being a gondolier like his father, and the tourists seem to think that’s cute. But when one of the tourists leaves his camera behind on the gondola, Marco becomes a hero. Using his skills of deduction, and his determination, he chases through Venice until he finds the tourists and returns the camera…

‘Buongiorno,’ I say to the tourists with red caps.
‘My name is Marco.
I’m going to be a gondolier, like my Papa.’
They smile at me.

Marco dreams of being a gondolier like his father, and the tourists seem to think that’s cute. But when one of the tourists leaves his camera behind on the gondola, Marco becomes a hero. Using his skills of deduction, and his determination, he chases through Venice until he finds the tourists and returns the camera.

Chase Through Venice is a gorgeous picture book highlighting the sights and experiences of Venice whilst sharing a story of thoughtfulness. The illustrations, show the buildings, the residents and, of course, the waterways in rich colour and from a range of angles and perspectives, creating a visual feast for youngsters to explore.

A celebration of the delights of Venice, this hardcover offering is a delight.

Chase Through Venice

Chase Through Venice, by Sally Gould & Laura Peterson
Windy Hollow, 2011
ISBN 9781921136733

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

The Very Blue Thingamajig, by Narelle Oliver

Creak…crunch…crack! From an egg covered in more spots than you could possibly count, came a very blue thingamajog. The other thingamajigs gathered around to see the new arrival, but didn’t stay long. This thingamajig was just too plain and boring, so he was left alone.

But, one Sunday morning, the thingamajig woke up to find he had a very curly tail. On Tuesday, he found he had a new pair of yellow wings. For the rest of the week, there was some new and interesting addition every day, until the next Sunday he was ready to show the other thingamajigs. Their reaction was not quite what the thingamajig expected.

The Very Blue Thinggamajig
is a fun lift-the-flap book, which teaches the concepts of days of the week and counting, at the same time as providing a gentle lesson on differences. Author/illustrator Narelle Oliver uses simple language and rich pastel colours to create a gentle but fun story.

Oliver is the author and illustrator of many award-winning picture books, including The Hunt and Baby Bilby, Where Do You Sleep?

The Very Blue Thingamajig,by Narelle Oliver
Omnibus, an imprint of Scholastic, 2003

Dancing Night, Tonight, by Ian Bone

Every Tuesday night Millie’s Mama goes out dancing. Millie stays home with Dad, but that’s okay because Millie has dancing night at home.

Mama and Millie put on their matching dresses, their shiny red dancing shoes and put ribbons in their hair. Then Mama goes out while Millie dances with Papa in the loungeroom.

Soon, though, doubts creep in. What if Mama can’t get home, or forgets to come home, or – worst of all – doesn’t want to come home? Gently her father reminds her of the links she shares with her mother, sending the fears dancing on their way, until Millie’s mother comes home with the final reassurance.

Dancing Night, Tonight is a gentle picture book from writer Ian Bone and illustrator Anna Pignataro. Pignataro’s illustrations, using a combination of pencil, water colour, ink and gouache, create an almost dream-like quality to the story and echo the gentleness of the text.

A perfect bed-time story.

Dancing Night, Tonight
, by Ian Bone, illustrated by Anna Pignataro
Scholastic, 2003

Shutting the Chooks In, by Libby Gleeson

As night draws near, the boy must feed the chooks and shut them in their pen. Across the farm yard he goes, past the buildings, machinery and trees of the farm yard.

He calls to the chooks and they follow him to their yard where he feeds them and counts them, speaking to them by name. But one chook is missing and it is getting dark. He must find the missing chook before the fox comes prowling, and conquer his own uncertainties about crossing the dark yard to get home.

Shutting the Chooks In is a charming new picture book from writer Libby Gleeson and illustrator Ann James. With minimal words, Gleeson creates rather than describes the emotions of the young boy, who remains nameless, portraying his closeness with the chickens (each of which does have a name) and his sense of duty. His uncertainty about the dark is also drawn by the word choice, and the reader can feel his heart pumping as he runs home, to joyfully greet his mother waiting inside the back door.

Ann Gleeson’s charcoal and pastel illustrations complement the simplicity of the text, with the colours of the twilight subtly creeping in as the story progresses. The golden light of home shining on the last page frames the boy on his triumphant return.


Shutting the Chooks In, by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Ann James
Scholastic Australia, 2003

Silly Baby Magpie, by Jill Morris

Silly Baby Magpie!
Big eyes and floppy head…
I’ve been scratching, screeching, tapping
Now I’m ready to be fed.

Silly Baby Magpie
, a brand new book from Greater Glider Publications, follows baby magpie from his early life in the egg through his youth and on to maturity. Along the way we see his antics as he learns and plays.

Author Jill Morris combines simple, lively verse with text boxes containing non-fiction information about the magpie, one of Australia’s most common birds. The story and information are complemented by the richly detailed illustrations of Heather Gall.

A fun and informative picture book.

Silly Baby Magpie, by Jill Morris, illustrated by Heather Gall
Greater Glider Publications, 2003

Colossal Creatures, by Nick Hughes

Dinosaurs lived long ago and grew to a massive size
But if they lived with us today, you wouldn’t believe your eyes.

Kids love books with different formats, and Colossal Creatures, with a flap to lift on every page, is sure to delight. The simple rhyming text by Nick Hughes, contrasts the ancient dinosaurs with the animals, people and buildings of today.

The highlight of the book is the brilliant illustrations of Mini Goss, who conistently produces work of this standard. Bold colours and lively detail are Goss’s specialty and in Colossal Creatures she makes excellent use of the lift the flap format.

Colossal Creatures, is equally appropriate for the home and educational context.

Colossal Creatures, by Nick Hughes, Illustrated by Mini Goss
Koala Books, 2002

Sisi and the Cassowary, by Arone Raymond Meeks

When Sisi goes with her mother and sisters to the waterhole, she swims too far away. Chased by a crocodile she surfaces in an unfamiliar place, and can’t find her way home. Soon, she comes across a boy collecting berries and agrees to help him with his task if he will then help her to get home. However, when the time comes for the boy to fulfill his part of the agreement, he disappears, and Sisi is joined by a large bird. The cassowary gets Sisi to climb on his back, and he gives her a ride home, where she is reunited with her mother. Sisi realises then that the cassowary and the boy were in fact one.

This traditional tale is made complete with the rich traditional paintings of Arone Raymond Meeks, who uses browns, ochres, greens and blues to capture the Dreamtime essence of his story.

This is both an excellent sharing book and a useful educational tool for studies of Aboriginal art and dreamtime stories.

Sisi and the Cassowary, by Arone Raymond Meeks
Omnibus Books, an Imprint of Scholastic, 2002

Gordon's Got a Snookie, by Lisa Shanahan

The animals in the zoo are so excited that Gordon is coming. Gordon is the new silverback gorilla being brought in from overseas to take care of the girls. Of course, the girls are more excited than anyone – they hope Gordon will be big and strong and hairy.

When Gordon arrives he looks to be all that they hoped for – until the young gorillas notice something funny. Gordon has a snookie! Now all the animals are scornful and highly amused – how can Gordon live up to his strong image if he needs a comforter? The girls are embarrassed to be seen with him.

Poor Gordon – left alone, the snookie becomes more and more important, until a young gorilla unwittingly offers a chance solution.

Gordon’s Got a Snookie is a hilarious story sure to appeal to children and to their adult readers. Shanahan’s text is a delightful blend of humour and gentle message about the acceptability of snookies, or blankies or other comforters. The illustrations of Wayne Harris perfectly complement the text, capturing the range of emotions from ethusiasm to loneliness with a delightful colour range and skillful portrayal of the characters’ facial expressions.

A delightful book!

Gordon’s Got a Snookie, by Lisa Shanahan, illustrated by Wayne Harris
Allen & Unwin, 2002