Eddie Frogbert by Sue deGennaro

Eddie Frogbert wasn’t like other frogs.
While all the other frogs would hippity hop around the pond, Eddie preferred to keep his feet firmly on the ground.

Eddie Frogbert keeps himself busy with plenty of different activities, like science and knitting. Everything except leaping in the pond. But, when every-hippity hopping friend he knows enters a diving competition, he wonders whether he might be a bit interested. Quietly, gently, he decides to work up to maybe, possibly, joining in. Perhaps he can join the fun. But he will do it in his own way.

Illustrations use a limited palette of blues and greens (and tiny red accents) set in blue-grey pages. Backgrounds are stripped back and include collage and drawn textures. The embossed front page with Eddie atop the diving board tower shows his apprehension and his bravery. Look out for the snail.
Eddie Frogbert is a quietly determined frog. While he enjoys his normal activity, he also wants to overcome his apprehensions about leaping and join his friends in the pond. So rather than let his fear overwhelm him, he chooses quiet moments to test himself. When his ultimate goal is beyond his reach, he stages his training to build up to it.

Told with gentle humour, Eddie’s story is one of persistence and determination, and will resonate with many young people (and not so young?) For a story-within-a-story follow the journey of the snail which begins in the front endpapers and continues throughout. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

Eddie Frogbert, Sue deGennaro
Scholastic Press 2017
ISBN: 9781760276782

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

The Pros & Cons of Being a Frog, by Sue deGennaro

Finding the right animal wasn’t easy.
It was Camille who gave me the idea of being a frog.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog

The narrator of this whimsical picture book and his friend Camille are quite different. Camille is a numbers person – she loves them so much that sometimes she speaks only in numbers. The narrator is a little more creative and,w hen they meet, dresses in a cat costume. But being a cat is causing problems with a local dog, so Camille comes up with a solution, and helps the narrator to choose a new animal – the frog. This works fine until he asks Camille to be a frog, too.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog is a whimsical story of friendship and difference. Both Camille and her friend are a little odd – one wearing a costume every day, the other being obsessed by numbers. But each learns not just to accept the other’s difference, but to value it, because it is because of these differences that they complement each other.

The messages about uniqueness and about friendship are apparent, but the whimsy of the story is what drives it, making both laugh out loud funny and heartwarmingly touching. The illustrations, using collage, pencil and ink are similarly whimsical, with neither the practicality of the numbers or the creativity overwhelming – instead uniting to make a delightful whole. The cover, with its embossed numbers and image of the two characters considering the title, is perfect.

The Pros and Cons of Being a Frog, by Sue deGennaro
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 978174283063

Available from good bookstores or online.

The Emperor's New Clothes Horse, by Tony Wilson & Sue deGennaro

‘I’d trade all these trophies for one Cristobel Cup!’

The Emperor loves horse racing, and his horses have won every ace in the land – except the Cristobel Cup. He will do anything to win one. When the Royal Trainers fail to find him the perfect horse he turns to a pair of brilliant international trainers who produce a special horse. They warn him though: only clear-thinking citizens will see the horse for what it is- a mighty racehorse. Those who are stupid will see just a wooden clothes horse.

This is a witty take on the classic story The Emperor’s New Clothes, with a clothes horse taking centre stage in this equine twist. Youngsters who haven’t heard the original will get almost as much out of the story as those who have, though the two work well together and for older children there is an opportunity for comparison of the two. Illustrations, using Copic markers and black biro are delightfully humorous. The unusual layout is also clever, with each illustration spanning the centre of each spread, and text appearing on the outer third of each page against pastel backgrounds picking up the colours of the illustrations.

Suitable for early childhood, but with applicability well into the school years.

The Emperor’s New Clothes Horse, by Tony Wilson & Sue deGennaro
Scholastic, 2012
ISBN 9781742830452

This book is available in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Button Boy, by Rebecca Young & Sue deGennaro

It’s amazing how many buttons you can find when you’re looking.

Banjo loves collecting buttons. While the other children are playing chase, or swapping stories, or laughing, Banjo is looking for buttons. Each day he takes his finds home to Grandma Woolly, who sews the buttons onto Banjo’s jumper, until there is hardly any room left for more.

Then, one morning, as Banjo plays in the park, he meets a little girl sobbing because she is missing a special button. Banjo hands the button back. The next day he meets an old man missing a button from his coat sleeve. Banjo hands this one back, too. Soon, he has no buttons no his jumper – but there are lots of happy people around him. At home, Grandma Woolly has a surprise – a nice new jumper. And the next day he discovers that collecting friends is as easy as collecting buttons was!

Button Boy is a delightful picture book with plenty of whimsy as well as a lovely message about friendship. The text is simple, with pieces of repetition with which young readers will enjoy joining in, and the illustrations also appear simple, though this is a clever deception, with plenty of little details for readers to discover. Illustrator Sue de Gennaro has used acrylics and coloured pencils with blues and greens predominant as well as details in black lines and grey shading, for an overall whimsical effect.

A gorgeous picture book.
Button Boy

Button Boy, by Rebecca Young & Sue deGennaro

Scholastic Press, 2011
ISBN 9781741697971

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

The Vegetable Ark, by Kim Kane & Sue deGennaro

It is not well known that Noah had a brother.
But he did,
and his name was Neil.
Noah and Neil were very different.

The story of Noah and his ark is well known. Less is known of his early life. Kim Kane introduces the reader to Neil, Noah’s vegetarian brother. Both work hard, but they are very different, not just physically. Noah competes successfully at both things, and becomes a ‘fat cat’ wheeling and dealing and living well. Meanwhile Neil is more of a dreamer, happy to spend his days with his plants, smelling the beans. When Noah tells him about the coming rains and invites him to join the Ark, Neil responds, but not quite the way Noah expects. Illustrations in this large landscape format hardback are a mix of collage, pencil and paint. Images are set in white space and often float on the page. Endpapers are a cross between a weather map and endless rain.

If you ever wondered where Noah’s dove discovered the olive branch that she brought back to Noah, then wonder no more. It came from Neil’s tree. Neil, who was quiet and largely unnoticeable in his life, certainly when compared with his corporate brother Noah, triumphs. Where Noah seeks to corner the market in food supplies, Neil’s aim in saving all the vegetables is much simpler. He knows that any post-flood world will need vegetables. Noah wants Neil to come aboard the ark, they are still brothers, but Neil as always is doing things his own quiet way. There are plenty of themes about big issues in The Vegetable Ark but in both text and illustration they are cloaked in off beat humour and delightful quirkiness. Recommended for primary-aged children.

The Vegetable Ark: A Tale of Two Brothers

The Vegetable Ark: A Tale of Two Brothers, Kim Kane Sue deGennaro
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741759969

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author www.clairesaxby.com

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.

The Tomorrow Book, by Jackie French & Sue Degennaro

That’s REAL LIFE, your royal highness,’ said the butler kindly.
‘Well…’ said the little prince. “I think real life could be improved.’

The little prince loves reading the books in the palace library, but somehow the real world never seems as good as he imagines. So, when his parents leave him in charge, he and his friends start to change the world using the ideas from the books in the palace library. Together, they believe, the world can be perfect –

The Tomorrow Book is a wonderful tale of one child’s quest to make the world a better place by reducing pollution, recycling and using solar power. The use of a fairy tale structure is cute, giving a gentle message about the difference that could be made to our world by action towards positive transformation. Printed on paper from sustainable plantations, and with the art using recycled materials for collage, this is a gorgeous book with an important message.

The Tomorrow Book

The Tomorrow Book, by Jackie French and Sue Degennaro
Angus & Robertson, 2010
ISBN 9780732289393

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

The Smartest Dog of All, by Ian Horrocks

My friends and I have a lot of dogs between us. Each of our dogs has its own personality – funny, sad, clever. Some are real dumb, but they are all different. Of course, my dog is my favourite dog. He is called Whitlam, which is a funny name for a dog, I agree. The original Whitlam was an Australian prime minister who got thrown out of government by the governor-general. I first heard the name one day when Dad and Grandpop were arguing about politics. They love arguing.

Whitlam is the runt of a litter of a puppies and arrives with little ceremony or expectation. But from the first he and a small boy are inseparable. The boy is convinced that Whitlam is the smartest dog of all. Whitlam likes attention but is happy as long as his boy is close and his name is mentioned occasionally. The boy’s eighth birthday party proves very exciting, particularly for a six-month-old puppy that feels that he is due some attention. And Whitlam does get some attention, just perhaps not the attention he anticipated. The Smartest Dog of All is a new title in Omnibus’ ‘Mates’ series. This series features very Australian tales told in very Australian style. The Smartest Dog of All is Australian from the political discussions between Dad and Grandpop to the birthday celebrations outside under the gum trees.

The Smartest Dog of All is a first chapter book for newly confident readers. The chapters are short and there are colour illustrations on every opening. Words that might challenge new readers are in different fonts, as if to highlight their newness and difference. The style is light and humourous. This is a tall tale with all the hallmarks of tall tales of old. It is told sincerely with the voice of an earnest young boy and it’s almost, almost believable. Illustrations are in coloured pencil and carry a humour all their own.

Recommended for newly-independent readers wanting to transition from picture books to longer books.

The Smartest Dog of All (Mates)

The Smartest Dog of All (Mates), Ian Horrocks, ill Sue deGennaro
Omnibus Books 2009
ISBN: 9781862918108

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

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author