I Love my Grandma and I Love My Grandma, by Anna Walker

Ollie, the main character of the ‘I Love…’ series from Anna Walker is an androgynous striped zebra. Or ‘everychild’ in a pyjama suit. In previous outings, Ollie has loved his Mum and his Dad. Ollie also likes holidays and Christmas, to sing and to dance. Ollie even has his own ‘I Love Ollie’ font that’s used for his stories. I Love My Grandmais about Ollie spending a day with Grandma at her house. They have a picnic, a singalong and a bath. And all the while Grandma is knitting.

At Grandpa’s house, Ollie and Grandpa are ready for a day of gardening. Ollie helps as only a small child can, as they weed and harvest in Grandpa’s vegetable garden. At the end of the day, the two share dinner and a chat and then doze off in the chair. Illustrations are watercolour with lots of white space. Endpapers depicting a child’s drawing of the day’s activities echo the colours on the front cover and spine. And cuddles. Both Grandma and Grandpa offer the best of cuddles.

Each of the ‘I Love…’ books tells the story of a day with Ollie, from Ollie’s point of view. Text is simple, with the illustrations illuminating the words and reflecting a sometimes different story. But they are full of the simple joys of just being. As with previous offerings in this series, children will enjoy Ollie’s adventures and adults will appreciate the relationships depicted. Ollie is full of life and curiosity and love. These are small format almost square hardback picture books, sure to be a favourite with littlies and with their families.

I Love My Grandma

I Love My Grandma, Anna Walker Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741696363

I Love My Grandpa

I Love My Grandpa, Anna Walker
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741696370

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Peeking Ducks, by Krista Bell & Sally Rippin

Zhang, Mulong and Langshi lived on a quiet stream, not far from the busy Li River. They lived with their mother, their father and their sister, Poh Poh.
For months it has been foggy, dark and cold but now the sun was shining over the mountains.

After a long winter of cold and fog, finally it seems like Spring might be coming. Sick of being restricted by the weather, three young ducklings take advantage of an early spring day to go exploring. Their parents and sister remind them to stay close, but gradually they move further and further towards the big Li River. Along the way they encounter dangers they’d not expected but are assisted by other river creatures. Sally Rippin’s endpapers show misty Chinese mountains and set the scene for the illustrations to follow. Her palette of greens and greys evokes the misty light of the Chinese mountains and the rivers that feed from it. The ducks are brilliant white, perhaps indicating that they still have something to learn about blending in. Peeking Ducks is a large portrait format hard back with lovely heavy paper.

Young children often have no context to understand danger. They don’t know what they don’t know and can put themselves in situations of risk. So it is with Zhang, Mulong and Langshi. All they know is they are sick of being cooped up and want to get out and play. They are fortunate enough that although they encounter potential danger, they also encounter other animals who help them avoid capture. Even little Poh Poh, who at first advocates caution is seduced by the pull of the ‘outdoors’ and the notion at ‘peeking’ at new sights. Krista Bell shows that some lessons can be learnt by experience, while also reminding that sometimes parents do know what they’re warning about!

Peeking Ducks

Peeking Ducks, Krista Bell, ill Sally Rippin
Windy Hollow Books 2010

Reviewed by Claire Saxby Children’s book author.

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Mirror, by Jeannie Baker

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

I’ve been a fan of Jeannie Baker’s amazing collage artwork and stunning picture books for years. Once again Jeannie has come up with what is a brilliant and unique picture book that takes us into the lives of two very different boys and their families. One is an Australian family in Sydney and the other a Moroccan family in the Valley of Roses.

The colour and detail makes this a stunning book that highlights the differences between the lifestyles of the two families. It gives insights into a life that will be familiar to many of us and one that is not familiar. Yet I loved the modern example of the mobile phone near the TVs on the Moroccan market page with its vegetables and grains laid out on the ground around which people, sheep and chooks wander.

I can’t imagine the hours and hours of work that have gone to make up this incredible collages constructed initially on wooden baseboard to which were added sand, earth, clay, paints, fabric, wool, plastic, vegetation and tin. The completed collages, Jeannie says, were preserved and coloured and then photographed with the reproduced images appearing in the book.

While I understand the logical idea of why it is set out as it is, my one quibble is that because of this layout where each text opens out from the centre, it is awkward to handle. I found it best to be able to open it on a flat surface rather than to try and hold it in the hands. That small quibble aside, this is a stunning and amazingly crafted picture book that is sure to delight many in homes, schools and libraries and feature in the next CBCA awards.

Just maybe it might make people realise that though many things are different, some things are the same no matter where the family lives.

Mirror, by Jeannie Baker
Walker Books, 2010
RRP $39.95

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe
Dale’s latest books are Lights, Camera, Action and Saltspray Idol.
Write and Read with Dale

Sam's Bush Journey, by Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

Sam loved staying with his nanna, except for one thing.
Her house was surrounded by bush.
Nana liked to take Sam for long walks. But when they got home, Sam’s legs and arms would be covered in scratches from the spiky shrubs that grew in the bush.

Sam and his grandmother, Nanna, go for long walks in the bush. Nanna tells him all about the bush, about safe foods and shelter. But for Sam, the bush is full of danger and annoyance. There are gum trees that might drop their branches on him, and mosquitos and pesky mosquitos at the waterhole. But while his conscious self focuses on the things he doesn’t like, perhaps he is absorbing the teaching Nanna offers. In a dream, he is in the bush and lost. Piece by piece, he recalls Nanna’s words. When he wakes in his bed the next morning, extra-hungry, his view of the bush has begun to change. Bronwyn Bancroft’s colourful illustrations show a wonderful bush, full of colour and life.

Sam takes two journeys in this beautiful picture book. The first is the physical one through the bush, where he sees only the dark things, the potential for danger, the scratchy branches and the itch-making mosquitos. Nanna expresses no disappointment, just keeps providing information that Sam appears not to appreciate. But his dream takes him back into the same country and the reader discovers that Sam has learned more than seemed apparent. Knowledge is passed on and Sam begins to see beyond the obvious and to develop his own relationship with the bush. The message is simple and clear and the illustrations are bright and colourful. In the background are dark figures, perhaps suggesting that the wisdom imparted by his grandmother has come from the land itself. Recommended for junior primary readers.

Sam’s Bush Journey, Sally Morgan and Ezekiel Kwaymullina ill Bronwyn Bancroft
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541728

Sam's Bush Journey

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews. review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

All Together Now, by Phil Cummings & Cassandra Allen

There’s a poor desperate dad, sighing, almost crying.
He puts his hands on his hips, turns to his kids,
Who are getting ready for a holiday and says,

Throw your bags on the truck, kids
Throw your bags on the truck.
Stop your running amuck, kids
And throw your bags on the truck.

Poor Dad. All he’s trying to do is get going on the camping holidays. But his kids, and there are a lot of them, seem determined to stop it happening. Not wilfully, just because they’re busy doing other things like teasing little sisters, and making kid towers and playing with the dog. But eventually they are on their way. The trip is longer and windier than some passengers enjoy and all are happy to arrive at the campsite. When the car is unpacked there’s time to watch the stars before dinner and a campfire singalong. Illustrations in warm tones show the magic of the bush and the wonders that are there to be found. They also beautifully capture the energy of the children.

All Together Now takes the rhythm of Rolf Harris’ ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’ and creates a story of family and camping. There’s a suggestion initially that the amount of work required might not be worth it, but it seems the memories of past outings keep Dad going through the packing stage. Any family who has been camping will recall all the parts of this story: the packing, the driving, the arriving, the experience, the joy of being in the bush. Those who have not been camping might just be tempted. And like ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down’, these words just beg to be sung. Recommended for preschool and early primary children.

All Together Now

All Together Now, Phil Cummings ill Cassandra Allen
Omnibus Books
ISBN: 9781862918696

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Count My Kisses, Little One, by Ruthie May & Tamsin Ainslie

Count My Kisses, Little One is a first counting book. A small girl frolics through the pages with ‘baby’ (a toy dog), and friends Rabbit and Bear (not that any are named). Numbers one to ten are counted in kisses as the group make their way through a single day. They play inside and out, read a story, have a bath and prepare for bed. The small girl is ‘mother’ looking after her ‘baby’. On each page there are hearts (kisses) to count, accompanied by a simple rhyme. Illustrations are gentle watercolours on a cream page, soft and beautiful. Count My Kisses, Little Oneis a square format hardback with a musk pink spine. The four characters dance their way across the cover, surrounded by kisses.

Count My Kisses, Little One is a lovely book for babies first being introduced to books and to numbers. There are lots of extras for them to find after the kisses have been counted. The activities of a normal day are modelled throughout, finishing with ‘baby’ being tucked up in bed. Small children will recognise and enjoy this portrayal of these familiar daily activities. Recommended for babies and preschool children.

Count My Kisses, Little One

Count My Kisses, Little One, Ruthie May ill Tamsin Ainslie
Little Hare 2010
ISBN: 9781921541254

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

I'm Big Enough, by Sally Odgers

Joey Hopalong swears he is big enough to hop alone Wallaby Grove. His mother believes he is big enough. She kisses him goodbye and says she will see him when he gets there. But none of the animals Joey meets along the way believe that he is big enough to do it by himself.

First he is joined by Platypus, then by Wombat and Possum. All are sure he needs their help. It is only when they meet Kookaburra that Kookaburra proves to the other animals, and to Joey, that Joey is indeed big enough to hop alone.

I’m Big Enough, by Sally Odgers, is a gently humorous tale with a subtle message about differences and growing up. The delightful illustrations by Llyod Foye capture the colours of Australia’s landscape, with golden browns and greens prevalent.

Sally Odgers is a talented Tasmanian author who produces quality books for all ages. I’m Big Enough reaches her always high standards. A treasure.

I’m Big Enough, by Sally Odgers, illustrated by Lloyd Foye
Koala Books, 2002

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox

One fine day, from out of town, and without any warning at all, there appeared a magic hat.

As the magic hat moves through the town, spinning through the air from person to person, its magic causes chaos – and hilarity. Young readers will join in the guessing, with the hat changing each person it lands on into something surprising. Where and how will this magic end?

The Magic Hat is the latest magical offering from renowned Australian children’s author, Mem Fox. Beautifully illustrated by Tricia Tusa, the book continues the fine tradition of outstanding offerings from Ms Fox.

As with earlier books, the charm of this book is in its rhythm and its simplicity. Children will love the repeated refrain which will help them guess what is going to happen next as the magic hat weaves its way through the town.

Mem Fox is one of Australia’s best known and most celebrated children’s authors, with 25 best selling titles to her credit. Her very first picture book, Possum Magic, first published in 1983, remains the best selling ever picture book in Australia, with over 1.5 million copies sold in Australia. Other popular titles include Boo to a Goose, Koala Lou, and Wilfred Gordon Mcdonald Partridge. Outside Australia Mem has also achieved great popularity, having reached Oprah’s list of twenty all-time best children’s books, with her title Time for Bed. For adults, Fox has written Reading Magic, recommended reading for parents and teachers, and Mem’s the Word, her autobiography.

The Magic Hat is wondeful bedtime reading for 3 to 6 year olds.

The Magic Hat, by Mem Fox
Scholastic Australia, 2002. rrp AUD $24.95 (hardback)