To the Moon and Back, by Dianne Bates

Seeing Claire’s anxious face, Mum added, ‘But I love you. And your dad loves you. It’s just that we don’t love one another. Now I’ve found Mac, someone I like more than your dad. And I want to live with my two favourite people – you and Mac. Do you understand?’
Claire nodded, but didn’t really understand. All she understood for sure, was how she felt. She wanted to live with Dad forever.

Claire loves both her parents, but her mum has been keeping secrets from her dad, and now she’s told Claire that they have to leave. Mum and Dad have had lots of fights, and Dad has even hurt Mum sometimes. But he’s never hurt Claire, and she isn’t happy about leaving him behind and going to live with Mum’s new friend, Mac. Hopefully, it will only be temporary and Mum and Dad will reunite so Claire can live with her ‘real’ family.

For younger readers, To the Moon and Back explores the issue of family breakup, and the impact of both domestic violence and new relationships on children. Claire faces problems which all too many young readers will be familiar with, either in their own lives or in the lives of their peers and Bates tries to make the issues accessible by showing them through the eyes of a child.

To the Moon and Back, by Dianne Bates
Big Sky Publishing, 2017
ISBN 9781925520293

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick

People like you and me, Jonah,
we drag down the price of everything we touch.

Jonah and Manx have been happy living on the wrong side of Coraki Lake – the side which does’t have beach access. They fish and swim in the lake, and spend their Friday nights watching Ella and Rachel and wishing they had the courage to talk to them. But life is changing. Their run down town is being sold off by a greedy real estate agent. Manx’s dad’s servo struggles to keep its doors open, and Jonah’s parents argue non-stop. The things that happen at their Friday night gatherings by the lake will bring change, and not all of it will be good.

Another Night in Mullet Town is a gritty, realistic verse novel told from the perspective of Jonah, a boy with just the one close friend (though he hopes Ella will become his friend, or something more). He and Manx have always been mates, but he worries that Manx is drifting away, consumed with hatred for the wealthy new-comers. He’s also struggling with the effects of his parents’ fighting. For all that’s going wrong, he manages to find things to be happy about, and he is a likable, often humorous narrator.

Herrick’s poetry is, as always, accessible to young readers with each poem only a page or two, enticing readers to read just one more. The use of the verse novel form means that there is emotional depth, character development and a wonderful sense of place, delivered with a satisfying compactness which means it will reach readers of all abilities.

Another Night in Mullet Town, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2016
ISBN 9780702253959

Together Always, by Edwina Wyatt & Lucia Masciullo

When Pig got lost, Goat found the way.
When Goat felt giddy, Pig told a story.
‘We will stick together,’ said Goat.together always cover

Pig and Goat live together in the orchard, doing everything together. They are happy and pledge to be together, always. But one night the orchard gate swings open and Goat wants to go and explore. Pig isn’t so sure, but follows for a while. When he decides he wants to go home, Goat doesn’t want to come. As they spend months apart, the pair each remembers their absent friend. When Goat can’t sleep, he hums just like Pig used to do, and when Pig gets lost, he finds the way like Goat used to. Finally, though, Goat comes home and there is joyful reunion, after which they live together again, except for occasional separations, during which they still think of each other.

Together Always is a wonderful exploration of friendship and the way it survives absence and separation. It is also a reminder that friends can be different and have separate interests, and still be close to each other. Of course, it is also simply a moving, fun story with a touch of whimsy.

The illustrations, in watercolour with pencil outlines on lovely cream pages, use rich pastel colours and quirky details but, of course, it is Pig and Goat themselves who are the most delightful.

A beautiful tribute to friendship.

Together Always, by Edwina Wyatt & Lucia Masciullo
Little Hare, 2016
ISBN 9781742979632

A Year with Marmalade, by Alison Reynolds & Heath McKenzie

Reviewed by Dale Harcombe

A Year with Marmalade

This is a delightful picture book about friendship. Two girls Ella and Maddy are best friends. That is until Maddy has to go away for a year and asks Ella to take care of Marmalade, her cat. Both Marmalade, the cutest orange cat you could ever wish to see, and Ella are sad at the parting.

Anyone who has ever had a best friend who went away will be able to associate with the feelings conveyed. It made me think of a best friend who went away when I was young and I’m sure it will evoke similar memories in readers young and old.

Through the changing seasons which are beautifully depicted in text and illustrations, we see Ella’s feelings about the loss but then something starts to change. I’m not going to give the ending away by saying what that is, but let me say it is a satisfactory ending.

The text is simple and flows well with a great deal of expression and the illustrations compliment it perfectly. With its limited colour scheme the illustrations manage to convey so much and Marmalade is one of the most expressive cats I have ever seen (this from someone who is not a cat person. But Marmalade almost convinced me. )

Given the reasonable price for a charming hard cover picture book this is sure to find its way into many homes and schools and so it should.

A Year With Marmalade
Text by Alison Reynolds
Illustrations by Heath Mc Kenzie
Published by Five Mile Press
ISBN 9781742488806
Hardcover picture book $14.95

Available from good bookstores or online.

Did My Mother Do That? by Sharon Holt & Brian Lovelock

If you were a new chick, your mother would have fluffed up her feathers and sat on you to keep you safe. Your mother didn’t do that.

Did My Mother Do That?

Holly’s mum has to go out, and Holly isn’t keen. But Dad offers to tell Holly a story, about the night she was born. As Holly and Dad snuggle up, getting ready for bed, Holly asks about where she came from and what happened when she was born. Dad starts by telling her, in response to her questions, about the things her mum didn’t do – hatching her from an egg, carrying her about in a pouch, or even feeding her mice for dinner, before telling Holly what her mother did do, carrying her in her tummy and then crying tears of joy when she was born.

Did My Mother Do That? is a gentle story of the bond between mother and child which manages to also be a lovely demonstration of the paternal relationship, too. with Dad being the one who spends the time with Holly when Mum has to go out.

A lovely bedtime – or any time – story, illustrated with lovely mixed media illustrations using a combination of acrylic, watercolour and pencil. The animals hop, swim and wander across the pages, as they enter Holly and Dad’s imaginations, so that the animals and the humans share the spreads in a way which will intrigue young readers.


Did My Mother Do That?, by Sharon Holt & Brian Lovelock
Walker Books, 2012
ISBN 978192172060

Avaialble from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.