Time For Bed, Daddy by Dave Hackett

‘Come on Daddy, it’s time for bed.’

‘But I’m not tired,’ says Daddy.

I pull on Daddy’s arm to help him off the couch.

‘First, you’ll need to have a bath.’

‘Not yet. I’m still playing.’

‘Playtime’s over, Daddy.’

Book Cover:  Time for Bed Daddy‘Come on Daddy, it’s time for bed.’

‘But I’m not tired,’ says Daddy.

I pull on Daddy’s arm to help him off the couch.

‘First, you’ll need to have a bath.’

‘Not yet. I’m still playing.’

‘Playtime’s over, Daddy.’

A young girl decides it’s time for Daddy to go to bed. But Daddy has all the excuses in the world. She is resolute and gentle, leading him through all their pre-bed routines. At each, he is diverted, and cooperates, but still full of reasons why it’s not yet bed time. Illustrations are iconically Dave Hackett cartoon-y set in plenty of white space.

Time for Bed, Daddy is a delightful bedtime role-reversal (or is it?) that is sure to have young children chuckling. It’s easy to hear every parent, or carer, of young children in the reminders to keep the water in the bath, to clean also the back teeth, and to go to the toilet before bed. Extras include familiar ‘dad’ jokes about putting right arm in, wrong arm into pyjamas. This is a lovely gentle depiction of a wonderful parent/child relationship and of the rituals of bedtime. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

Time for Bed, Daddy, Dave Hackett
UQP 2015
ISBN: 9780702253812

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Mister Cassowary by Samantha Wheeler

I’d never been to Grandad Barney’s farm, even when he was alive. He’d grown bananas in the middle of woop woop, at a place in north Queensland.

‘Look, Dad! That sign says Mission Beach. We’re nearly there!’

We’d been driving for two days, travelling nearly 1,600 kilometres from Brisbane, and it felt like we were almost at the tip of Australia. I thought Dad would be happy we were getting close, but his face was growing darker with every passing kilometre.

I’d never been to Grandad Barney’s farm, even when he was alive. He’d grown bananas in the middle of woop woop, at a place in north Queensland.

‘Look, Dad! That sign says Mission Beach. We’re nearly there!’

We’d been driving for two days, travelling nearly 1,600 kilometres from Brisbane, and it felt like we were almost at the tip of Australia. I thought Dad would be happy we were getting close, but his face was growing darker with every passing kilometre.

Flynn and his dad travel to Flynn’s grandfather’s banana farm to prepare it for sale. Flynn has never met his grandfather, never been to his farm. No one will tell him why. Mum, left behind in Brisbane, asks Flynn to go easy on Dad. Flynn’s dad seems to get angrier every day, and no matter how many times Flynn asks, he won’t say why. This is cassowary country and their trip begins with a close encounter with a very tall cassowary. Flynn meets Abby, whose grandfather runs the local cassowary shelter. Day by day, he learns more about these endangered giant birds, his grandfather, and his father. But nothing comes easily. It’s hot and steamy and Flynn is about to explode with frustration.

Book Cover:  Mister CassowaryMister Cassowary is a junior novel set in tropical north Queensland. The title refers to the name of a particularly large cassowary that is legendary around Mission Beach. Flynn struggles to reconnect with his father, who works away at a mine and only comes home now and then. Travelling to the home where his father grew up seems to make things worse, rather than better. Dad is taciturn and full of rules that Flynn doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want Flynn to explore and he won’t tell him why. No matter what Flynn does, it seems to be wrong. But gradually, with the help (and hindrance) of Abby and her grandfather, and despite Dad’s silence, Flynn begins to fill in the spaces in his family history. ‘Mr Cassowary’ explores notions of family and conservation. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Mister Cassowary, Samantha Wheeler
UQP 2015 ISBN: 9780702253881

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

On Track, by Kathryn Apel

Sometimes it feels  
like my body doesn’t belong
to me, like I tell it to do stuff
and it doesn’t. My feet stumble along
and trip over each other, my hands fumble
and drop, and it’s almost like I’m wrapped in
invisible bubble wrap – stumbly, fumbly, bumbly –
like a spaceman bumping and blundering along.

Toby and his brother Shaun were born less than a year apart, but though they are close in age, they are very different in every other way. Shaun is smart, and good at everything he does. Toby struggles at school, and doesn’t find anything easy – except running away from his ‘big, better brother.’ Shaun might be good at everything, but he feels that people don’t notice his successes – especially when Toby is around.

Tensions between the brothers grow when Toby is diagnosed with a muscular condition and starts getting extra help, including a new laptop for school. When he then joins the school’s athletics team, Shaun resents that this means the coach will spend less time with him. With Sports Day getting closer, tensions between the pair grow.

On Track is a wonderful verse novel about sibling rivalry, self identity and self confidence. Told through the dual first person narratives of Shaun and Toby, the story allows readers to see both brothers’ struggles and motivations, allowing empathy for both to develop. This in turn will help readers to see that individual differences are not always better or worse.

This is Apel’s second verse novel, and makes excellent use of the form, allowing an emotional connection with the two characters. Readers will care about the boys and what happens to them, and the resolution is satisfying without being overly contrived. The inclusion of sport in the plot will add interest for many readers.

On Track, by Kathryn Apel
UQP, 2016
ISBN 9780702253737

Available from good bookstores and online.

A Curry for Murray, by Kate Hunter & Lucia Masciullo

A Curry for MurrayMolly made…
slippery duck pasta for her brother’s headmaster,
spit-roasted geese for the local police,
and Singapore noodles for the Montague poodles!

Molly likes her neighbours Maureen and Murray, so when Maureen goes to hospital, Molly decides to make a curry for Murray. Word soon gets out about her wonderful culinary skills, and soon Molly is cooking and baking for friends near and far. But in the midst of her cooking chaos, Molly hurts herself – and Mum says ‘enough’. Finally, when Maureen gets home from hospital, it is Molly’s turn to receive a food gift.

A Curry for Murray is a gorgeous new picture book with lots of food-based silliness in both text and illustrations. Alongside the fun aspect, there is also lots of information about food, with visual representations of the ingredients in each dish, and a lovely demonstration of community spirit. The food offerings, as well as rhyming with the recipient names, come from a range of different cuisines, and some of the food is sent to faraway places, offering lots of opportunities for discussion.

The watercolour and pencil illustrations have touches of whimsy and lots of detail for youngsters to explore. From the cover through to the endpapers, this is a beautiful book to own and engage with.

A Curry for Murray, by Kate Hunter & Lucia Masciullo
UQP, 2015
ISBN 9780702253546

Available from good bookstores and online.

Gap, by Rebecca Jessen

Looking on the streets

for the hangers-on

never know

who’s lurking round these parts

seen me leave his house

round the back

pale and sweaty

what have I done?

Ana is not a murderer, but she has killed a man. When you are young, trying desperately to survive and to protect your little sister, you will do almost anything. Now, though, the police are onto her, and her conscience is giving her no rest. As she tries desperately to see a way out of this mess for herself and for her sister, Indie, she finds an unlikely ally. Sawyer is a police officer, but Ana knew her before she was a cop, and reconnecting now forces Ana to confront her past, at the same time as she must confront her present. Perhaps she should just run from it all.

Gap is a gritty novel in verse for young adult and adult readers, set on the streets of Brisbane. Ana is a survivor, tough, independent and caring, but some things are to hard even for the toughest of teens. The use of the verse form gives us snapshots of moments of dark and light, reminiscent of film and,while the viewpoint character is the supposed criminal, there is still a sense that this a kind of detective novel, as readers are invited to piece together what has brought Ana to this point, and what the solution might be.

Winner of the Emerging Author category of the 2013 Queensland Literary Awards, Gap is a brilliant verse novel, honest and compelling.

 

Gap, by Rebecca Jessen
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702253201

Available from good bookstores and online.

Spud and Charli by Samantha Wheeler

‘Kill it!’

‘Quick! Make it die!’

The girl perched on the top bunk was practically emptying a whole can of fly spray into the corner of the room while three others stood watching, their backs pressed flat against the wall. By the looks on their faces, the monster receiving the blasts must have been nothing less than a spiny-legged cockroach – like the ones that lurked around our bin in the middle of the night.

Each of the girls took turns screaming instructions.

‘Here it comes!’

‘Spray it! SPRAY IT NOW!’

I peered inside the door. A tiny brown spider about the size of a ladybird was huddled helplessly in the corner, making a feeble attempt to hold out its front legs while being drowned in torrents of Mortein Fast Knockdown.

‘Kill it!’

‘Quick! Make it die!’

The girl perched on the top bunk was practically emptying a whole can of fly spray into the corner of the room while three others stood watching, their backs pressed flat against the wall. By the looks on their faces, the monster receiving the blasts must have been nothing less than a spiny-legged cockroach – like the ones that lurked around our bin in the middle of the night.

Each of the girls took turns screaming instructions.

‘Here it comes!’

‘Spray it! SPRAY IT NOW!’

I peered inside the door. A tiny brown spider about the size of a ladybird was huddled helplessly in the corner, making a feeble attempt to hold out its front legs while being drowned in torrents of Mortein Fast Knockdown.

Charli is excited to be at riding camp, where she will finally learn to ride. And then, it’s just a short jump to owning her own horse. Well that’s what she hopes. But from the minute she arrives, things are not quite as she imagines. Firstly, she’s sharing a room with the snobbish Mikaela. Not her choice, but she’s already rejected the other options. Then she’s beaten to choosing the beautiful palomino and nothing, it seems, will convince Mikaela to swap. Charli is stuck with the massive retired racehorse Spud. This is not how it worked in her dreams. And as if this isn’t enough, there are bats. According to Charli’s research, bats and horses are a recipe for disaster.

Spud and Charliis perfect for horse-loving preteens. Jam-packed with horse details from grooming to saddles, to riding terms, they’ll eat it up. Charli discovers that Spud is not as scary as he at first appears, and before too long, she is smitten. Along the way, Charli learns the difference between dreams and reality, making good and bad decisions and why it makes sense to gather all information before judging others. Despite some hasty decisions, Charli’s good sense and caring nature shines through although she has to learn some lessons the hard way. Recommended for mid-primary readers, particularly horse fans.

 

Spud and Charli

Spud and Charli, Samantha Wheeler UQP 2014 ISBN: 9780702250187

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

My Nanna is a Ninja, by Damon Young & Peter Carnavas

Some nannas dress in pink
when they jog around the track.
But my nanna is a ninja…
so she dresses up in black.

All nannas are different, but when your nanna is a ninja, she does super different things, like juggling ninja stars and eating with swords. Still, even a ninja nanna can do ‘normal’ grandmother things like kissing a grandchild goodnight, though she might do it very quietly.

My Nanna is a Ninja is a humour-filled picture book in rhyme, celebrating difference, the grandparent-grandchild relationship and, of course, ninjas. The text flows freely, and the humour of Nanna’s actions will amuse. The illustrations, in ink and watercolour have all the whimsy we’ve come to expect from Peter Carnavas, an the use of sepia washed frames to show the things Nanna does when the child isn’t present is a clever technique.

In hardcover with a gorgeous bright yellow cover, My Nanna is a Ninja is a celebration of non-conventional grandparents.

 

My Nanna is a Ninja, by Damon Young & Peter Carnavas
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702250095

Available from good bookstores and online.

Here in the Garden, by Briony Stewart

The wind is raking through the falling leaves
and I wish that you were here.

The gently lyrical opening lines of this picture book perfectly capture its essence. The narrator – illustrated as a young boy – is missing his pet rabbit. Text and illustrations follow the seasons and show the boy missing his friend with each new season, reflecting on the things they did together at that time of the year – watching clouds, sitting in the shade, listening to crickets and more. The final pages have the narrator conclude that whenever he misses his friend, he can go outside and find him – in his memories, ‘in the garden, in my heart.’

Whilst this a book about grief, it is also a celebration of friendship and of life, with the boy’s memories having a gentle poignancy. Whilst the illustrations show a boy and a rabbit, this is made clear only in the illustrations, meaning readers and adults could equally relate the text to another loss.

The muted watercolour and gouache illustrations are perfect for the mood of the text – not sombre, but gentle, and with a contrast in detail between the illustrations showing the boy alone and those showing him sharing the seasons with his rabbit. In the former, reminders of the rabbit are there in little ways that viewers will enjoy noticing – such as a rabbit shaped shadow under the boy on a swing, and rabbit motifs on a curtain.

This is a treasure of a picture book which touches the heart.

 

Here in the Garden

Here in the Garden, by Briony Stewart
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702250101

Available from good bookstores and online.

Bully on the Bus, by Kathryn Apel

She’s big.
She’s smart.
She’s mean.
She’s the bully on the bus.
She picks on me and I don’t like it.

But
I don’t know
how to make her
stop.

Leroy has a problem, and it’s a big one. There’s a bully on his school bus – and she’s bigger than him, bigger than his sister Ruby, even as big as his mum. DJ goes to the high school, but she doesn’t want to be there. Leroy likes school, but he doesn’t like the bus, especially when DJ is on it. Leroy needs a secret weapon, but when he finds it he wonders if it will be enough to silence the bully.

Bully on the Bus is a gorgeous new verse novel for younger readers. Leroy and his family are realistic and well-drawn, as is the situation he finds himself in. The resolution, too, is clever, and shows Leroy drawing on the help of those around him but, ultimately, being key to fixing the problem.

This is Apel‘s first foray into the verse novel form, but hopefully it won’t be her last. She handles it deftly and with sensitivity.

Bully on the Bus, by Kathryn Apel
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702253287

Available from good bookstores and online.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand Out in the Rain, by Steven Herrick

My name is Jesse James Jones. Call me Jesse. Don’t call me triple j. I’m not a radio station, I’m an eleven-year-old boy.
Trevor looks down on me with understanding eyes. It’s pretty tough going through life with a name that people make fun of. ‘ven though I walk through the valley of the shadow -‘
‘Mum! Jesse’s talking to himself again!’ yells my sister Beth, from the next room.
‘Jesse.’ Mum’s voice is reproachful, as though I’ve been caught doing something sinful.

Fitting in to a new school is rarely easy, and when there’s a school bully with you firmly in his sights, it’s definitely going to be difficult. Lucky for Jesse there’s also a girl called Kate who has curly black hair and a beautiful smile. While Jesse’s helping her to save the whales, he’s also trying to save starving orphans in Africa, and his family from financial ruin.

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain is a funny story about standing up for beliefs, friendship and fitting in. Told from the first point viewpoint of Jesse, interspersed with a third person look at Hunter’s perspective, the reader is thus able to see the complexities of the boys’ interaction as well as what is happening in each boy’s life. This adds a depth which a single viewpoint would lack.

Young readers will enjoy the silliness of scenes including Jesse’s interaction with a poster of Jesus (who he calls Trevor to appease his atheist parents) and Hunter’s ability to find sponsorship for the Save the Whales cause , whilst appreciating the poignancy of the tougher moments of the story.

Herrick is a powerful storyteller. Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain will not disappoint.

 

Bleakboy and Hunter Stand out in the Rain, by Steven Herrick
UQP, 2014
ISBN 9780702250163

You can read an interview with Steven Herrick here.

This book is available from good bookstores or online.