The Book That Made Me, edited by Judith Ridge

We were all hooked (and a bit unsettled) from the outset, so there was no turning back. My brother and I looked forward to each progressively disturbing chapter: conniving pigs, brainwashed sheep, a horse carted off to something called the “knackers”, and poor Mum had to field all of our questions. (Shaun Tan)

From acclaimed authors from around Australia and overseas, The Book That Made Me offers a glimpse into the formative years of the creators, and of the book (or books) that shaped who they are – as authors, as readers, as people. From early readers and picture books to graphic novels, science fiction, to medical encyclopedia, each author’s preference is different and their tales behind why and how these particular books stayed with them are sometimes funny and other times very moving, but always intriguing.

Editor Judith Ridge is a passionate children’s literature advocate and has brought together a wonderful array of authors, including Shaun Tan, Julia Lawrinson, Sue Lawson, Markus Zusak, Ted Dawe and many more – thirty-two authors in total.

 

This is a book for book lovers of all ages and, with all royalties going to the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, purchase supports a really important cause.

The Book That Made Me
Walker Books Australia, 2016
ISBN 9781922244888

Home in the Rain, by Bob Graham

“My little sister.
What will her name be, Mummy?”
“Well, she’s not quite with us yet,” said Mum.
“But when will she have a name, Mummy?” said Francie.
“Soon,” said Mum. “Sometime soon.”

It’s a very wet day, and Francie and Mum have a long drive home from Grandma’s house. Stuck in the rain, Francie has lots of time to wonder what her new baby sister will be called and, just before the weather clears, Mum finds a name that seems just right.

Home In The Rain is a beautiful slice of life book from master picture book creator Bob Graham. While the trip is long and the rain is heavy, nothing world-changing occurs – but this makes what does happen – the choosing of a baby’s name – monumental.

Bob Graham’s portrayal of both the heavy rain storm and its effect on the traffic, people and animals, as well as of the little world inside Francie and Mum’s car, is divine. WHile this is chiefly a story about the latter, the detail of the former adds interest and humour and highlights the way life goes on around the little family. Younger children will enjoy the detail and older children will spot layers of meaning, and enjoy the use of light, colour and persepctive. Even the name chosen for the baby, Grace, is connected to the rain through a John Updike quote on the dedication page.

Beautiful.

Home In The Rain, by Bob Graham
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781406368239

Welcome to Country, by Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy

Welcome to the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri People. We are part of this land and the lands is part of us. This is where we come from.

This beautiful, important book is a joy to read, to view and to hear. Many children will have heard a traditional Welcome to Country at a school or community event, but having Aunty Joy’s welcome on behalf of the Wurundjeri People presented in picture book form will allow the welcome to be brought into classrooms and homes in an accessible form.

The use of English as well as a language, the explanations of the significance of the parts of the greeting and the invitation to pay respect and traverse the lands draw the reader into the text, and the rich acrylic illustrations from Lisa Kennedy bring the land and its traditional inhabitants – human, animal and spiritual – to life, again drawing the reader in with its beauty.

A wonderful asset which should be in every school ad household.

Welcome to Country, by Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781922244871

Circle, by Jeannie Baker

In a place where mud and sand become sea…
a godwit with white wing patches
flies up with his flock.
The moment is right
for the long journey north.

A godwit leaves a sandy shore, knowing its is time to journey north. Joining his flock, it flies day and night until he knows it is time to stop for food and rest. Later, replenished, the godwit continues his journey until the flock reach their northern home and he goes alone to his remembered place. Attracting a mate, the pair breed and produce chicks. Eventually, though he knows it is time to rejoin the flock, feed and begin the long flight south to return to the beach he started from.

Circle is a beautiful picture book exploring through text and amazing art the migration of the godwits, through the perspective of a single bird. Readers are given a wonderful insight into the challenges faced on the long journey, as well as through the breeding season. The story is also bookended by hints of the story of a boy who witnesses the departure and return of the bird. AT he front of the book, preceding the title page,w e see the boy bedbound, wishing he could fly. In the opening spreads he watches the birds from a wheelchair,pushed to the edge of the beach. In the closing scene, as the godwits return, he is again on the beach, with the aid of a pair of crutches which are discarded as he tries to stop his dog chasing the birds.

With the amazing collage artwork for which Baker is known and loves, gentle text and so much detail to explore and discuss, Circle will delight young readers, teachers and adult readers.

Circle, by Jeannie Baker
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781406338010

Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre, by Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

Far up north, clouds are gathering: thunderheads and rain clouds.
Rain falls.
Rivers fill and break their banks,
And water swirls and roars down the empty riverbeds towards the lake.

Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre – is a dry salt lake in the centre of Australia. But once roughly every ten years heavy rains to the north fill the lake with water, awakening frogs and shrimp. carrying fish down creek beds, giving new life to parched plants, and bringing birds, including pelicans and ducks, to the lake to breed, feed and flourish. When the lake starts to dry out again the birds and their new young fly away and the other life returns to dormancy waiting for the next flood.

Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre is a beautiful non-fiction book which brings the changing lake to lif through the combination of well-written text and stunning mixed media illustrations. The narrative text is complemented on each spread by the inclusion of facts, presented in a different font so that readers can read the story and facts separately, if desired. The illustrations show the diversity of the lake’s inhabitants and the lake itself through contrasts between the ochres and browns of the dry, and the greens and blues of the wet.

Par of the Nature Storybook series, Desert Lake is excellent both as an educational tool and for prib=vate enjoyment.

Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda – Lake Eyre, by Pamela Freeman & Liz Anelli
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781921529436

Yong, by Janeen Brian

I never wanted to come.
And now I’m probably going to die. Before this trip I had never been out of my village in Guangdong. Never walked past the banks of the rice fields or smelled the air beyond the dark hills.
Yet, here I am, aged thirteen, in a sailing ship that’s being hurled about in seas as tall as mountains, heading for some strange shore across the other side of the world.

Yong does not want to go to Australia. He wants to stay home in his village and look after his younger siblings and his grandmother. But he is the firstborn son, and has no choice: his father insists that he accompany him to the goldfields in Ballarat. There they are to make their fortune, to send money home for their family, and eventually return.

The trip by ship to Australia is long and tedious, and, when storms hit, dangerous too. Yong and his father are lucky to escape with their lives, but find themselves not in Victoria, but South Australia, and so begin another long journey – on foot. With other men from their village and an untrustworthy guide it seems they might never arrive.

Yong is a moving historical fiction tale set in 1850s Australia against the backdrop of the goldrush. Whilst gold is the goal for Yong and his father, however, the focus of the story is on unearthing the culture and type of people who came to Australia in search of gold, specifically the Chinese. Through the eyes of Yong we see his concerns about leaving behind his birth country and family, his bewilderment at his new country, and how his culture affects his experiences.

An engaging story, Yong is ideal for private reading and for schools and libraries.

Yong, by Janeen Brian
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925126297

Magrit by Lee Battersby

One rainy spring night when she was nearly ten years old, a girl named Magrit climbed onto the roof of the chapel at the centre of the octagonal cemetery that was her home. She nestled herself against a tall, skeletal figure that gazed out across the grounds like an ancient guardian. Together, they bathed in the light that shimmered through the curtains of the surrounding buildings.

One rainy spring night when she was nearly ten years old, a girl named Magrit climbed onto the roof of the chapel at the centre of the octagonal cemetery that was her home. She nestled herself against a tall, skeletal figure that gazed out across the grounds like an ancient guardian. Together, they bathed in the light that shimmered through the curtains of the surrounding buildings.

Magrit, a nearly ten-year-old girl, lives in a tiny cemetery. Her only company is Master Puppet, whose words speak directly into her mind. She is mostly content, even if sometimes she and Master Puppet do not agree. Before a stork drops a bundle into the cemetery, her life is one of leisure, if sometimes unexciting. But the arrival of the bundle alters her life, fills it with activity and causes the biggest disagreement with Master Puppet. Her life will never be the same. Text is interspersed with black and white illustrations, and wrapped in cloth binding.

Magritis a beautiful book, from the dark purple binding with stylised illustrations on cover and internally. Magrit, the main character, is a grounded, thoughtful character, guided by internal wisdom from Master Puppet. Her world is turned upside down by the appearance of the bundle, but she adapts to this change as she has adapted to being trapped within the cemetery. She continues despite the warnings from Master Puppet, making her own decisions and growing towards the both surprising and inevitable conclusion. Themes include resilience, responsibility and independence, wrapped up in a suspenseful and fantastical mystery. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Magrit, Lee Battersby
Walker Books 2016
ISBN: 9781925081343

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Chook Doolan: Rules are Rules by James Roy ill Lucinda Gifford

Hi. My name is Simon, but you can call me Chook.

Almost everyone does.

This is me with my family. We’re the Doolans.

I’m the small, scared-looking Doolan on the end.

Hi. My name is Simon, but you can call me Chook.

Almost everyone does.

This is me with my family. We’re the Doolans.

I’m the small, scared-looking Doolan on the end.

Chook Doolan would like to be braver. When his brother, Ricky, is sick, Mum is looking after him, and Dad is late for work, he realises he is going to have to walk to school alone. He’s not sure he’s brave enough. Dad tells him The Rule. Chook sets out determined to do exactly what Dad says. It’s harder than he thinks. He makes it to school without letting his fear overwhelm him, but now he has another problem – actually more than one. Each opening includes large font text and black and white illustrations.

‘Chook Doolan’ is a new first chapter book series from Walker Books Australia, featuring a young boy who is learning how to navigate his world. In Rules are Rules he thinks that adhering to his father’s ‘rule’ will help him stay safe on the way to school. He also discovers more about the community in which he lives. A realistic story for young readers making the transition from fully illustrated books to chapter books. Recommended for early-primary.

Chook Doolan:Rules are Rules , James Roy ill Lucinda Gifford
Walker Books 2016
ISBN: 9781922244932

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Chook Doolan: The Newest Pet by James Roy ill Lucinda Gifford

Hi. My name is Simon Doolan, but most people call me Chook, which is another name for a chicken.

And that’s what I am.

I’m a chicken.

I’m not a real chicken – don’t be silly. I’m just a boy. A not-very-brave boy.

Hi. My name is Simon Doolan, but most people call me Chook, which is another name for a chicken.

And that’s what I am.

I’m a chicken.

I’m not a real chicken – don’t be silly. I’m just a boy. A not-very-brave boy.

Chook Doolan is a not-very-brave boy, navigating a world that feels very big and a little scary. But he’s making friends and enjoying school. When his teacher, Ms Rashid, announces a ‘Bring your pet to school day, he discovers that his apparently fearless friend, Joe doesn’t have a pet to bring. Chook puts aside his own worries and decides to help Joe find a pet to take to school. But finding a pet for someone else isn’t easy. Text is presented in a large font with black and white illustrations on most openings.

Chook Doolan: The Newest Pet is a new first chapter book series from Walker Books Australia. Chook would like to be braver, like his friend, Joe. Joe is about the bravest boy he knows. But when Pet Day is announced, it’s Chook’s turn to help Joe. These realistic and contemporary stories have short chapters and are ideal for young readers making the transition from fully illustrated books to chapter books. Recommended for early-primary readers.

Chook Doolan: The Newest Pet, James Roy ill Lucinda Gifford
Walker Books 2016 ISBN: 9781922244949

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

Reflection, by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Robin Cowcher

Left! Left! Left! Right! Left!
We make our way in the dark.

Early in the morning – before dawn – a family makes its way to a memorial service, standing together to remember the fallen. With the other people who gather they remember, through words, through silence, and through the last post, men and women who have died in combat.

Reflection , a picture book, was released in time for this year’s ANZAC Day, equally serves to explore other such ceremonies, including Remembrance Day. The text , just a sentence per spread, observes simply what happens at such a ceremony. However, the illustrations add an extra dimension – with one page in each spread showing what is happening in the contemporary ceremony, and the other page showing scenes of war. So, for example, in the first spread, as the modern family males their way through the dark, so do the soldiers of old. The modern illustrations use gentle colours, while the scenes of war use khakis and sepia tones. Background washes of grey skies span both scenes, linking them. In the final spread there are a mix of coloured and grey figures walking together, suggesting that the departed are marching with the living. Back of books notes highlight the conflicts Australian and New Zealand forces have served in, from the Boer War to Afghanistan in the present.

A beautiful, haunting book suitable both for classroom use and private reading.

Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War, by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg & Robin Cowcher
Walker Books, 2016
ISBN 9781922179050

 

Teacher’s notes are available here.