Goodnight Mice! by Frances Watts

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

The rhyme and rhythm of this picture book is perfect for the story of four mice who are tired but suddenly become very active , skittering and scampering around when Mum and Dad say it’s time for bed.

The text and accompaniying illustrations take the reader through all the routines the mice do before bedtime, routines of bath times and brushing teeth and kisses goodnight that young children will be familiar with. The repetition of once and twice is effective in the story. Sometimes it is

Kiss Grandpa once,
Kiss Grandpa twice.

Other times it is

Mum sighs once.
Dad sighs twice.

This is a gentle tale that will delight young children and provide a satisfactory ending to a day. It is a story filled with warmth and family love.

The illustrations are cute. Although they are not overly imbued with colour most of the time, they are warm and suit the gentle text. The faces of the mice are very expressive. I particularly liked the bath Time illustrations and those of the scampering, scrambling scurrying fun. I loved the books on the bookshelf and the mice being read a bedtime book. Even the end papers are a delight to pore over with the little mice in various activities.

This is sure to become a book young children and parents will be happy to read again and again.

Goodnight, Mice!

Goodnight, Mice!
Text Frances Watts
Illustrations Judy Watson
Hard cover picture book $24.99
ABC for Kids
HarperCollins Publishers

Available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

How Frogmouth Found Her Home, by Ambelin Kwaymullina

On the dawn of the very first day,
Grandmother Frogmouth said, ‘We Tawny
Frogmouths will make our home in the trees.’
All the Frogmouths said, ‘Yes, Grandmother.’
Except for one, who said, ‘Not me!’

When Grandmother Frogmouth tells all the Frogmouths where they will make their home, young Frogmouth decides she will find her own home. She looks in many places, including a kangaroo’s pouch and a wombat’s den. These homes might be perfect for kangaroos and wombats, but they didn’t suit Frogmouth. She thought she might live with the Sun, but Sun ran away, leaving the world in darkness. Now all the animals are confused about who they were. But Frogmouth, having travelled so far in search of a home, had all the answers. But although she helped them, they were unable to help her find Sun. Frogmouth looks again to the sky. And there she finds the answer she’s been seeking: her perfect home. Illustrations are simple shapes with wonderful colours and design, each a piece of art. End papers feature the bright colours of the interior in bold stripes.

There’s one in every family, every crowd, isn’t there? The one who has to do their own thing. And in this family, it’s Frogmouth. Her restless searchings send her in all sorts of wrong directions and see her involved in the games of others. But her journey also helps her sort out the other animals when Sun disappears. And eventually she finds her home, and also helps Grandmother Frogmouth in leading the other Frogmouths. There are themes of family and world, helping and asking for help. This is a delightful creation story with very engaging illustrations, ideal for young children both pre-school and school age.

How Frogmouth Found Her Home

How Frogmouth Found Her Home, Ambelin Kwaymullina
Fremantle Press 2010
ISBN: 9781921696015

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

The Very Itchy Bear, by Nick Bland

This is Flea about to bite
but not because he’s impolite.
He’s biting Bear to say,
biting high
and biting low.

Bear is sitting quietly by himself when Flea comes to visit. Unfortunately for Bear, the way Flea says hello is by biting him – here, there and everywhere. This, of course, makes Bear itchy, and soon his itching frenzy sends Bear and Flea off on an adventure out to sea. And it is there, where Bear ends up alone floating on a log whilst Flea looks set to become a seagull’s dinner, that the pair establish an unlikely friendship.

The Very Itchy Bear sees the gorgeous bear star of A Very Cranky Bear return in an equally gorgeous sequel. Whilst the bear is the same, this offering stands alone, so that familiarity with the first is not necessary.

The rhyming text is a delight to read aloud, making it lots of fun for sharing sessions, and the illustrations bring the bear to life. Flea is, for the most part, just a speck, because of his size difference, but in one illustration we see him grinning sheepishly, perched on the end of a single hair.

A wonderful offering for preschoolers.

The Very Itchy Bear

The Very Itchy Bear, by Nick Bland
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN 9781741696516

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online through Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

The Trouble With Dogs, by Bob Graham

“The trouble with dogs,” said Dad, “is that they take over your life. Run the show.”

Adopted from the rescue centre, Dave is a small pup who Kate thinks is perfect. But sometimes he gets just too excited, and causes problems – jumping onto laps, running through flowerbeds, even stealing cupcakes from visitors’ plates. When Mum finds the phone number for Pup Breakers, a solutions seems at hand. But when the Brigadier starts to train Dave, he loses his sparkle.

The Trouble with Dogs! is a delightful sequel to Let’s Get a Pup, featuring big, slow Rosy and little fast Dave, and their people family. With a gentle lesson for dog owners – and even parents – about the wonder of having a zest for life, this is creator Bob Graham at his best, with deceptively simple illustrations, and text which says only what’s necessary.The Trouble with Dogs!

The Trouble with Dogs! by Bob Graham
This edition Walker Books, 2010
ISBN 9781406326017

This book can be purchased in good bookstores and online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Louie the Pirate Chef, by Simon Mitchell & Ben Wood

Louie didn’t want to be a pirate.
He wanted to be a chef.

When Louie’s parents sign him up for Captain Blackheart’s crew, Louie has trouble listening to the Captain and joining in the crew’s escapades – because he is too busy dreaming of cooking delicious dishes. The other pirates laugh at Louie’s dreams, but when their ship leaves them stranded on an island, with nothing to eat, it is Louie who comes to the rescue.

Louie the Pirate Chef is a light hearted story about following your dreams. With lots of pirate silliness, brought to life in the watercolour and ink illustrations of Ben Wood, this is a title which will make kids giggle.


Louie the Pirate Chef

Louie the Pirate Chef, by Simon Mitchell & Ben Wood
Working Title, 2010
ISBN 9781921504051

This title can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

An ABC of Pirates, by Caroline Stills & Heath McKenzie

is for adventure
on an azure-coloured sea.
Hoist the anchor, maties,
’tis a pirate’s life for me.

Whilst there are plenty of ABC books on the market, the simple reason or this is that they are popular with parents and educators as an early-learning tool. An ABC of Pirates is likely to be also popular with young readers, offering, in addition to an exposure to the letters of the alphabet, an exciting pirate adventure. Each letter shows pirate characters in a range of exiting adventure situations. With the entry for each letter written in rhyming verse, the letter is used to begin several words in the entry, which are highlighted in bold font. The illustrations, by Heath McKenzie show the things mentioned int he text, as well as other items which start with that letter. For example, the ‘A’ entry has an astronaut, an alligator and an abacus in the illustration.

Easy to read aloud and fun to explore visually, this is a swashbuckling, fun-filled offering.

An ABC of Pirates

An ABC of Pirates, by Caroline Stills and Heath McKenzie
Little Hare, 2010
ISBN 9781921272776

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

One Funky Monkey, by Stacey McCleary

One funky monkey – as though in a trance.
Moving and grooving, he started to dance.

Late at night, in the quiet of the toyroom, one funky monkey stars to dance. Soon he is joined by two happening hippos, three jazzy giraffes and more and more jiving, boogying and discoing animals in this rhyming, moving counting book.

The illustrations, in the gentle deep blues of night with splashes of colour of the animals illuminated by the monkey’s torch, are perfect for evening reading, and the counting story will encourage children to learn to count from one to ten, and down again from ten to one. The endpapers show the animals stars fast asleep on their shelves, perhaps tired out from all their dancing.

A funky counting book.

One Funky Monkey

One Funky Monkey, by Stacey McCleary & Sue Degennaro
Walker, 2010

This book can be purchased in good bookstores, or online from Fishpond Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

You, by Stephen Michael King

All children, except one, grow up.

This book is for YOU.

There is a magic in the books of Stephen Michael King which is difficult to explain. The minimal text and the minimalist illustrations combine to bring a gentle smile to any reader’s face. You is no exceptiob, This small format hardcover book is pure delight.

The narrative explores the colour, the music and the excitement of the world, but in each instance tells the listener that s/he is the most exciting/most colourful/most musical one of all. The characters in the book are a yellow waggly tailed dog who is speaking to a little bird, but listeners will feel that the narrator, and, in fact, the adult reader, is speaking directly to them.

This is the most adorable bedtime/cuddle time book and would make a perfect gift for a new born or even for an adult friend.

You, by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 2010

Mademoiselle Lisa, by Delphine Perret

Leonardo da Vinci’s portrait known as Mona Lisa is one of the most famous paintings in the world. It lives in the Louvre in Paris and is visited by millions of people. But what if Lisa was bored? What if she was sick of being looked at and having to stay still all the time? ‘Mademoiselle Lisa’ asks that question and then follows Lisa as she takes some time out. Initially her post-frame plans are modest, but flushed with success, she sets her sights overseas. She finds happiness and contentment in a new world. Illustrations are a mix of Mona Lisa’s face and loose line drawings set in an abundance of white space. Endpapers reflect formal wallpaper patterns featuring a number of still life configurations.

Mademoiselle Lisa takes the story of The Prince and the Pauper and reshapes it as a both modern and ageless fable. ‘Lisa’ is sick of just being an object of adoration, sick of the endless staring. She just wants a normal life, doing normal things. One day she decides that rather than sitting around, she needs to go out and seek this life she desires. Mademoiselle Lisa is both absurd and serious, suggesting that the world is there for the taking, no matter who you are. You just have to go out and get it. A small hardback, ‘Mademoiselle Lisa’ has wide appeal. Younger readers will enjoy the absurdity, while older readers will enjoy the reminder that anything is possible, if you will it so.

Mademoiselle Lisa, Delphine Perret
Black Dog Books 2010
ISBN: 9781742031620

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Martha Doesn't Share, by Samantha Berger & Bruce Whatley

Martha has learnt a new word and is using it quite a lot. The word is ‘MINE!’ and she’s applying it to everything around her. Her parents and little brother would quite like her to share, but Martha’s having none of it. Until she discovers that having everything isn’t quite all it’s cracked up to be. This is a landscape-format paperback with a mauve and pink cover. Martha and her family are soft anthropomorphised otters. Endpapers show Martha at her non-sharing best. Illustrations depict Martha and her family in soft pastels and include large areas of white space. This is an international edition of the original US edition.

Martha’s parents try all sorts of ways to introduce the concept of sharing to this strong-willed child but with little success. Indeed they almost quake in the force of her ownership bids. They withdraw then and leave Martha with all her things. But Martha discovers this isn’t what she wanted after all. Martha Doesn’t Share sends a very clear message about the value of sharing. But never fear that Martha is completely reformed by her discovery of the up-side of sharing. The final opening shows Martha is still fairly sure that she owns most of the world. Recommended for preschool age children.

Martha Doesn’t Share, Samantha Berger & Bruce Whatley
Hachette 2010
ISBN: 9780316126359

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author