Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting

‘Don’t worry,’ says Grandad.
‘The sandcastle is still here;
you just can’t see it.’

Rae wants to build a magnificent sandacste, and when Grandad offers to help they do indeed build a very fine castle. But when the tide starts to come in, Rae watches as, bit by bit, the magnificent castle is washed away. Grandad, though, explains that the castle isn’t really gone, because everything that made it is still there.

Sandcastle is a beuatiful exploration of the ebb and flow of life, and of the gentle bond between grandparent and grandchild. Whil Grandad’s wisdom is deep, so too is Rae’s willingness to accept that wisdom.

The deceptively simple illustrations use sandy tones as well as blues with embellishments of red and yellow. The focus is squarely on Rae and Grandad as they enjoy time together, seemingly the only two at the beach – with the exception of a gorgeous orange crab. Another lovely touch is the absence of any gendered pronouns for Rae, something which is difficult to achieve but doesn’t seem forced in this text.

A beautiful book.

Sandcastle, by Philip Bunting
Allen & Unwin, 2018
ISBN 9781760634438

Too Many Friends, by Kathryn Apel

I like my friends.
I like to be with ALL of my friends.
But sometimes my friends
aren’t friendly with
each other.

Tahnee has lots of friends, and she likes to do different things with them. But it isn’t easy having so many friends – some of her friends don’t like each other, or like doing different things, so it gets hard to be a good friend to everyone. Luckily, Tahnee has a big heart, and wise, loving support from her parents and her teacher, Miss Darling.

Too Many Friends is a delightful, warm-hearted verse novel about friendship. Like most classrooms, Tahnee’s year two class is populated by kids with a range of interests, problems and personalities. Miss Darling is energetic, enthusiastic and loves her job. Tahnee loves Miss Darling and she loves school, but she finds it hard to know how to keep her friends happy, and still do the things she loves, and when one of her friends stops talking to her, she needs to figure out what to do. Her solution is lovely.

This is Kat Apel’s third verse novel, and shows the same tender touch as her previous work.


Too Many Friends, by Kat Apel
QUP, 2017
ISBN 9780702259760

Dance With Me, by Penny Harrison & Gwynneth Jones

Each day a girl appeared before her and the ballerina twirled and whirled and swayed and swirled and sang to the little girl, ‘Come, dance with me.’
And the little girl would laugh and clap her hands and dance with the ballerina.

A music box ballerina likes nothing more than to dance to the music with the little girl who owns the music box. But the girls grows up, and develops other interests, and one day she stops dancing. The ballerina tries to find someone – or something – else to dance with her, but without luck. For years she is silent, shut in her box with nobody to dance with. Then, a little girl very similar to the one from years before, discovers her, and the ballerina dances one more.

Dance with Me is a delightful, slightly sad, story of growing up, and the toys that are left behind. Happily, in this story, the dancer survives until the next generation of owner falls in love with her. The illustrations, by Gwynneth Jones, use watercolour and outlines with soft pastel colours for the ballerina and her world, and bolder colours when she ventures out into the world looking for a dance partner.
Likely to appeal to young dancers, especially those with a fondness for music boxes.

Dance with Me, by Penny Harrison & Gwynneth Jones
EK Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925335231

I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell ill Charles Santoso

Adam does not like Koala.

Koala is the most terrible terrible.

He has terrible eyes that follow Adam everywhere he goes.

Adam does not like Koala.

Koala is the most terrible terrible.

He has terrible eyes that follow Adam everywhere he goes.

Adam takes a very active dislike to Koala from the moment he receives the gift. First Adam tries to tell his parents, but they don’t understand. Every night, they tuck Koala into bed with him before they turn off his light. Adam tries to ‘lose’ Koala, in all sorts of creative ways, but somehow Koala is always found before bedtime. Always. Illustrations are pencil  and mostly in very neutral browns and greys, with only a few elements picked out in colour. White space (or almost white) is used to increase tension and night scenes are shown with dark greeny-blacks that keep the focus tight on Adam and Koala.

I Don’t Like Koala is a striking picture book, full of dark humour. It is sophisticated and simple, allowing the reader plenty of room to bring their own ideas and experience. It is beautifully spare in both text and illustration and invites slow page-turning as the details reveal themselves. It’s just a little bit spooky, in the most delicious way. Is Koala really playing an active role, or is it all in Adam’s imagination? Recommended for early schoolers.

I Don’t Like Koala, Sean Ferrell ill Charles Santoso
Koala Books for Scholastic 2015

ISBN: 9781742761497

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Teddy Took the Train, by Nicki Greenberg

Teddy Took the TrainDot loves Teddy, and Teddy loves Dot.
So when Teddy goes missing, she misses him a lot…

When Mum and Dot go on an outing, Dot brings teddy along for the ride. But, in the rush to get off the train, Dot loses Teddy. The kindly stationmaster assures her that the train didn’t take teddy – rather Teddy took the train, and has gone for a big adventure. Although she isn’t sure, Dot gets involved in imagining Teddy’s adventures. Finally, at bedtime, Teddy comes home, delivered by the stationmaster.

Teddy Took the Train is a delightful picture book about imagination, adventures and courage. The rhyming text is fun to read and the illustrations, using a range of media including collage, ink and acrylic are warm and both sensitive and gently humorous. The depiction of Mum in a wheelchair is a wonderful touch, with the disability not forming a part of the written narrative, and thus part of the family’s life rather than the central issue of the book.

A gorgeous offering.

Teddy Took the Train, by Nicki Greenberg
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN Teddy Took the Train

Available from good bookstores and online.

Tin Toys, by Bruce Whatley & Ben Smith Whatley

As Christmas nears, the toy shop is filled with shiny new toys, which are quickly sold. But on the top shelf sits a wind-up toy, The Space Ride. The newer toys aren’t impressed with the Space Ride, but some of the older toys remember it and long to see it working again.

The older toys had not  forgotten the Space Ride. Buster could remember the first time he saw it in action. It whirred and whizzed, ready for take-off. It was magnificent.

As Christmas nears, the toy shop is filled with shiny new toys, which are quickly sold. But on the top shelf sits a wind-up toy, The Space Ride. The newer toys aren’t impressed with the Space Ride, but some of the older toys remember it and long to see it working again. They set out o find the missing key which will start the Space Ride, and to prove to the newer toys just how exciting an old toy can be. Finding the key to wind Space Ride up is difficult, but finally they do it – in spite of disturbing the poor Shopkeeper. When they do wind the ride up there is surprise in store. Although the Space Ride isn’t quite as exciting as the old toys had remembered, everyone has the best Christmas Eve ever.

Tin Toys is fabulous picture book for Christmas or any time of the year, about friendship, adventure and fun. A collaboration between author/illustrator Bruce Whatley and his adult son, the digital illustrations have a three dimensional feel similar to animation in films such as Toy Story. Particularly pleasing is the use of different perspectives so that scenes which could have been visually repetitive given the small setting of a toy shop, are viewed from different angles.

A delight.

Tin Toys

Tin Toys, by Bruce Whatley & Ben Smith Whatley
Random House, 2011
ISBN 9781864719918

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.