I’m Australian Too, by Mem Fox & Ronojoy Ghosh (ill.)

My auntie came from Athens
with her brother and her niece.
And now we live in Adelaide
because it’s so like Greece.
How about you?

Since the first white settlers arrived in Australia, there have been ongoing debates, discussions and worse, regarding just who has the right to be here, or to call themselves Australian. This is a really important topic, but not always an easy one to explore in a child-accessible way. I’m Australian Too manages to explore a wide range of versions of being Australian, from the first peoples, through to refugees – including those still waiting to find out if they will be ‘let in’ –  in a form which is easily digestible but also offers a way to discuss belonging and nationhood with even quite young children.

Opening with the lines I’m Australian!/ How about you?, each subsequent spread is from the voice of a different Australian child, telling where their family is from and where they live now. The closing pages focus on Australia’s tradition of opening doors to strangers, with echoes of the national anthem, and a reminder (or rejoinder) to live in peace. The important message of the story is reflected in the wonderful illustrations, showing the diversity of Australian homes, customs, landscapes and, of course, children.

Perfect for classroom discussions of belonging, multiculturalism, refugees and more, this is also perfect for at home sharing.

I’m Australian Too, by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh (ill.)
Omnibus Books, 2017
ISBN 9781760276218

What Do they Do With all the Poo from all the Animals at the Zoo? by Anh Do & Laura Wood (ill)

What do they do with all the poo
from all the animals at the zoo?
the hippos, the tigers, the kangaroos –
What do they do with all that poo?

Comedian Anh Do has been making Australians laugh for years, and since turning to chidlren’s books he’s gained a whole new generation of readers. What Do they Do With all the Poo from all the Animals at the Zoo? will entertain even younger readers than his junior novels.

This rhyming story, which comes with accompanying music on a CD (sung by Simon Mellor) is catchy, funny and, of course, slightly gross, which is exactly why youngsters will love it. The illustrations, by Laura Wood, are also filled with humour, with the looks on the faces of humans and animals particularly engaging.

Great for reading with or without the accompanying music, this will be a favourite both at home and in classrooms.

What Do they Do With all the Poo from all the Animals at the Zoo?, by Anh Do & Laura Wood
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760276324

The Silent Owl, by Sam McPhillips (ill) & Clemency Pearce

In the great, old hollow oak,
Lived an owl, who never spoke.

Owl doesn’t speak, doesn’t sing and doesn’t even hoot. All the other animals are worried. They would like a sign that Owl is all right. Finally, Owl does make a noise – by playing a series of musical instruments.

The Silent Owl is a gorgeous rhyming picture book, illustrated with paper collage and water colour backgrounds. The humour of the story, coupled with the big eyed characters will appeal to young readers, and the deceptive simplicity of the collage will entice young artists to experiment with collage themselves.

Lots of fun with early childhood readers.

The Silent Owl, by Sam McPhillips (ill) & Clemency Pearce
Big Sky Publishing, 2016
ISBN 9781925520019

Pig the Elf, by Aaron Blabey

How he loved Christmas!
He’d chortle with glee –
‘The presents! The presents!
For ME! ME! ME! ME!

It’s Christmas Eve and Pig and his patient friend Trevor are excited. But while Trevor has written to Santa asking just for ‘something nice’, Pig has written an almost-endless list of demands. And, while Trevor knows that Santa will come when he’s asleep, Pig is determined to stay up to see Santa. The waiting is hard, but harder still is his realisation that Santa hasn’t brought him everything on his list. He wants to make Santa pay – with hilarious results.

Pig the Elf is the latest in this much-loved picture book series featuring Pig the selfish (yet somehow lovable) Pug and his long-suffering friend Trevor the dachsund. In bouncy, humorous verse complemented with big generous acrylic illustrations, this is sure to be a favourite this Christmas season.
Pig the Elf, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760154271

Marvin and Marigold: The Big Sneeze, by Mark Carthew & Simon Prescott

Whenever young Marvin smelled biscuits or cheese
his whiskers would twitch…and he’d let out a sneeze.

Marigold Mouse has built herself a lovely new house, but there is a problem. Her neighbour, Marvin, has a terrible case of the sneezes, and whenever he sneezes, Marigold’s house shakes and gets messy. If she wants to save her house and keep Marvin as a neighbour, Marigold must search for a cure for Marvin’s sneezing.

The Big Sneeze is a delightful story in rhyme for young readers about friendship – and sneezing. The rhyme and rhythm scan well, making the story a pleasure to read aloud, and youngsters will love the humour of the situation as well as the illustrations which show quirky anthropomorphic mice and lots of detail covering every spread. The expressions of the mice are especially pleasing.

The Big Sneeze, by Mark Carthew, illustrated by Simon Prescott

New Frontier, 2016
ISBN 9781925059656

This Hungry Dragon, by Heath McKenzie

This HUNGRY dragon
heard his tummy growl.
Someone who heard it
was a nervous little owl!

A very hungry dragon meets – and eats – a series of unfortunate animals: the owl, a fancy fox, a muddy pig, and more. But eventually he feels sick and a visit from the doctor is needed. When the doctor, too, ends up in the dragon’s belly he figures out a way to get the dragon to spit them all out. the dragon feels better – and has learnt his lesson.

This humorous rhyming picture book will have kids laughing out loud and saying ‘gross’ in equal measure, but whilst animals are eaten, there’s no blood or gore, and every one is fine at the end. The dragon, in gentle reds and pinks, with tiny wings and big round eyes looks silly rather than fierce and the looks on the various animals’ faces as they realise what is happening adds to the humour.

Lots of fun.

This Hungry Dragon, by Heath McKenzie
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760151508

Pandamonia, by Chris Owen & Chris Nixon

Come through. Look around. relax and explore.
Inside you will find there are creatures galore.
You’ll have a magnificent time at the zoo…
just don’t wake the panda whatever you do.

It’s a lovely day for visiting the zoo, but when the panda gets woken, it can set off all kinds of uproar, from jumpy hippos creating a hullabaloo, to shimmying emus, and even cha-chaing chinchillas.the resultant uproar can cause shenanigans that carry on far into the night. So, readers are beseeched, whatever they do they must not wake the panda.

Pandamonia is a lively, humour-filled picture book with rhyme that roms through the pages. Youngsters will love the silliness of the text and will have fun playing with the vocabulary, with glorious words like fandango, cavorting, shimmy and more. The illustrations, on colourful backgrounds, bring the animals to life with simple geometric shapes filled with life and humour.

Likely to be requested again and agian, Pandamonia will withstand repeated rereadings.

Pandamonia, by Chris Owen & Chris Nixon
Fremantle Press, 2016
ISBN 9781925163339

Don't Call Me Bear, by Aaron Blabey

But if I got a dollar
every time you called me ‘bear’,
I tell you what – and no mistake –
I’d be a MILLIONAIRE.

Koala has had enough. Ever since European explorers first visited Australia, he has been called a bear. And he’s sick of it. If those first explorers ahd done their research, they’d have known that koalas, like kangaroos and wombats, are marsupials.

Don’t Call Me Bear! is a humorous rhyming picture book about Koala’s frustration. There is a gently educational element, but really the focus is on humour, especially with the other marsupials concluding the book by telling Koala that he looks like a bear.

From the creator of books such as Pig the Pug and Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas, will be similarly enjoyed.

Don’t Call Me Bear!, by Aaron Blabey
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760159849

The Whole Caboodle, by Lisa Shanahan & Leila Rudge

Wakey-wakey peachy pear,
my fuzzy-wuzzy grizzly bear,
my tootsy-wootsy fizzyjig,
my hurdie-gurdie whirligig!

It’s walk time. A cute ginger and white dog wakes, eager for his morning walk. He wakes his bearded owner, excited at who they might meet in the park today. Will it be one itzy-bitzy Poodle, or two lovey-dovey Bolonoodles?

The Whole Caboodle is a gorgeous rhyming counting book, featuring not just the narrating dog, but a whole feast of dogs big and small, real and recreated. As the little dog and his owner prepare for their walk, each new dog is mimicked by something in the illustration. So, when one poodle is mentioned, there is a poodle teapot cosy as the owner eats breakfast, and the two Bolnoodles are represented by a pair of dog slippers. On the final spread, in the park, when they meet ‘the whole caboodle’, the real dogs are present, and readers will have fun spotting and counting them.

Youngsters will enjoy the rhyming text, with its creative use of words created for tongue-twisting fun, and the  illustrations with matching whimsical detail. This one will demand repeated rereadings.

The Whole Caboodle, by Lisa Shanahan & Leila Rudge
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743629321

Cyclone, by Jackie French & Bruce Whatley

Outside, a giant
groans and growls.
A wind that
batters
shrieks
and howls.
A crack,
A lurch,
our house
is torn
Ripped
to paper
by the storm.

On Christmas Eve in 1974, Cyclone Tracy destroyed most of the city of Darwin, with houses ripped apart and families fighting for their lives as they sought shelter. Christmas Day revealed the extent of the damage and, in the days that followed, families were separated as most were evacuated until it was safe to return. While other cyclones and storms have hit Australia before and since, the scale of Cyclone Tracy and the damage she wrought, nothing has matched the scale of that storm – with 71 people killed, 41 000 left homeless and 80 percent of the homes destroyed.

Cyclone tells the story of that night from the perspective of a child who, initially, is sure that nothing is going to spoil Christmas, until s/he is woken in the night by Dad, who ushers his family out of their disintegrating house to hide under their brick barbecue. The rhyming text gathers the momentum of the storm – starting and finishing calmly but with pace and fury in the middle, and the chaos reflected by short line breaks.
The illustrations too, match the text with brooding skies in the early spreads, lightening slightly to illuminate the chaos of the storm, then brighter in the pages that follow. The use of muted tones and washes reflects both the tone of events and the photography of the 1970s which was used as reference material.

From the team who previously produced Fire and Flood, Cyclone is another outstanding offering.

Cyclone, by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781743623596