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

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

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.

Little Lunch: Triple the Treats, by Danny Katz & Mitch Vane

Rory ran all the way to the school gate and pressed his face against the wire fence so hard he got crisscross marks on his nose.
He was about to do the unthinkable, he was ready to do the impossible. Rory was about to go …
Out of bounds.

Rory is always forgetting his playlunch, and nobody has any food to share with him – so he has a great idea. He’ll sneak over to the shop and get some hot chips. Not everybody agrees that it’s a good plan – and if Mrs Gonsha finds out he’ll be in big trouble!

The Milk Bar is one of three funny stories that make up Little Lunch: Triple the Treats . The Little Lunch stories have amused young readers for several years, but now they have also been made into a television series and the stories in Triple the Treats are based on episodes of the show.

The stories are humorous, fast moving (each takes place within a single recess break) and well woven, with the characters both diverse and likeable. Black and white illustrations by Mitch Vane are complemented by still photos from the television series.

Lots of fun.

Triple the Treats , by Danny Katz and Mitch Vane
Black Dog Books, 2016
ISBN 9781925126907

Reflection by Rebecka Sharpe Shelberg ill Robin Cowcher

Left! Left! Right! Left!

We make our way in the dark.

Left! Left! Right! Left!

We make our way in the dark.

A family are up early to attend the Anzac Day March. They leave the house in the predawn in windy wet weather. One side of each opening shows the family and the other shows an image of soldiers at war. ‘Reflection’ begins with World War I and ends with the ongoing Afghanistan conflict and the Iraq War. The text on each opening applies equally to the family and to the soldiers/conflicts portrayed. Illustrations are watercolour and ink set on biscuit-pale pages.

Most picture books on remembering war focus on a single conflict, but Reflection offers a broader view of the conflicts that Australians have been part of. Soldiers, uniforms, weapons, mourners and geography change but devastation, death and suffering links them all. Reflection offers an opportunity to remember all those affected by war, but also portrays the changing face of Australia, of the world.

Reflection allows parents, carers, teachers and others to introduce the unfathomability of war through the eyes of a family. The iconic Flanders poppy red is used throughout, providing a visual link between the wars but also connecting it to the young family. ‘Reflection’ is a succinctly worded, beautifully illustrated collection of memories and remembrances. Ideal for primary-aged readers.

Reflection: Remembering Those Who Serve in War, Rebecka Sharp Shelberg ill Robin Cowcher

Walker Books 2016

ISBN: 9781922179050

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

Lily the Elf: The Wishing Seed & The Elf Flute, by Anna Brandford, illustrated by Lisa Coutts

The Wishing Seed (Lily the Elf)
Lily hugs the seed tightly. Then she whispers into the fluff.
Lovely dandelion seed
(not a pest and not a weed),
grant my wish
with super-speed,
a princess crown
is what I need!

Lily’s dress up crown is broken and tattered. She dreams of having a sparkly, unbroken princess crown. So, when a dandelion wish seed floats by, she knows what to do. She makes the wish and waits impatiently for it to come true. But nothing happens. Her wise dad and granny tell her that sometimes fixing things is better than wishing things, but Lily isn’t convinced – until both adults help her to fix her crown into something very special.

The Elf Flute (Lily the Elf)
First, she holds the flute sideways. Next, she wiggles her fingers over the holes. Then she blows over the big hole at the top.
She waits for lovely music to fill the room. But there is only a whiffling sound.

When Lily is given a brand new elf flute, she decides she will play it at the Grand Elf Concert, rather than recite the poem she has written. But learning to play the flute is harder than she thought. Will she master it in time for the concert?

The Wishing Seed and The Elf Flute are two new titles in the delightful Lily the Elf series. Each self-contained chapter book features Lily and her family – her father and her granny. Lily tackles problems which are a charming blend of elfish and human problems – wanting or wishing for something, mastering a new skill, appreciating individual talents and so on.

Black and white illustrations on most spreads, simple sentence structures and large font make these titles suitable for emergent readers, but accessibility has not compromised the story quality.

A lovely pair.

The Wishing Seed (ISBN 9781925081060)
The Elf Flute (ISBN 9781925081077)
both by Anna Brandford & Lisa Coutts (ill)
Walker Books, 2015

Atmospheric: The Burning Question of Climate Change, by Carole Wilkinson

Sofia started going on about how climate change will, you know, end the world, how everyone should be doing something. I don’t know what. How the atmosphere is full of greenhouse gases. I looked up at the blue sky. It looked all right to me. Vasily was listening to her, nodding.
Sofia finished and people cheered. Vasily clapped. Someone else stepped up to give a speech. Sofia was still chained to the column. Three policemen walked over to her with a pair of boltcutters. A news crew was making its way through the crowd.
‘Won’t she get arrested?’ I said.
I looked at the pamphlet. Obviously this was something she thought worth getting arrested for.

Everyone has heard of climate change – or should have. But though it is widely accepted that this problem is massive and affects both our present and our future, the concept can be difficult to grasp, as can the idea that everyone can to make a difference (and should be tryin to do so).

Atmospheric: The Burning Story of Climate Change provides an excellent insight into what climate change is, and how humans’ actions now and back through history have changed the climate, with devastating impact.

Chapters explaining the science of climate change, the effects of pollution, excessive consumption, agriculture and more are interwoven with fictionlaised first person accounts of teens present at key moments or witnessing the impact of changes over history. There are also text boxes with brief biographies of key figures in science and technology. The text is accessible but very direct both about how we find ourselves in our current predicament, and what we need to do about it.

This is both an excellent educative tool, and inspirational,  and will leave readers better informed and keen to make a difference.

Atmospheric: The Burning Story of Climate Change , by Carole Wilkinson
Black Dog Books, 2015
ISBN 9781925126372

The Cat With the Coloured Tail, by Gillian Mears

Mr Hooper’s cat was not like any ordinary cat. For a start, his face was the shape of a heart. Most amazing of all, and unlike any other cat in the world, Mr Hooper’s cat had a tail that could change colour.

Mr Hooper and his cat are an amazing pair. For a start, Mr Hooper has an icecream van which looks like a full moon, and dispenses ice creams – or “Moon-creams” – in any flavour imaginable. When The Cat With the Coloured Tail finds someone who is unhappy or in need of help, the colour of his tail changes and tells Mr Hooper just what flavour ice cream is needed.

Their relationship, too, is special. They travel together, revelling in each other’s company, singing and searching for heart-shapes in the world around them. But when the cat’s tail starts to turn black and he senses that something terrible is going to happen, things look grim. The heart of the world is suffering, and it may take all of the cat’s strength to fix it.

The Cat with the Coloured Tail is a moving, whimsical fable about the power of hope and of love. Readers of all ages will love the mysterious, joyful cat and his kindly companion, and the joy they bring each other and those they meet. Their adventure, which becomes a quest to save the heart of the world, is in turns frightening, sad, and uplifting.

In hardcover format with gently coloured pencil illustrations, the beautiful design of the book perfectly complements the story it contains.

The Cat with the Coloured Tail, by Gillian Mears, illustrated by Dinalie Dabarera
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN 9781922077400

Verity Sparks and the Scarlet Hand, by Susan Green

Papa was strolling towards the exit and as I turned to follow him, I saw her. In the cloud of smoke and steam left by the departing train, she appeared ghostly and indistinct, but as she moved towards us every detail sharpened. The grey dress, the modish hat, the beautiful face with deep brown eyes. My heart began to thump wildly. She was following me. It had been her all along, in the train, in Collins Street, in the Book Bazaar, perhaps even on the St Kilda Esplanade. Who was she? Why was she shadowing me? Did I have the courage to confront her?
But in a flash I relaised that I didn’t want to. Papa must not see her. This woman looked so much like Mama. It would only upset him.

Verity is happy with her Papa, and their ever-growing circle of friends. But a strange lady is following her – a woman who claims to be a relative, even though that seems impossible. When Verity and her friends go to the country for a holiday, it seems she can forget about the stranger for a while, and relax. But strange things are happening, and when Verity’s friend, Druscilla, and Helen, the wife of their host, are kidnapped, the holiday comes to an end.

A ransom note warns that police must not be involved, so the family’s friend, SP, investigates. Verity tries to help, but her visions, which seem to be offering clues, are confusing. Why was a red glove left at the scene of the kidnapping, and why do her visions also link to the colour red? And does the disappearance have something to do with the strange lady who was following Verity?

Verity Sparks and the Scarlet Hand is the third book featuring this fiesty heorine. Verity is part-detective, part mystic, with her visionary skills proving useful, though she struggles to understand or harness them. Set in 1880, in colonial Victoria, and featuring a wide range of characters from around the globe, the story will engage strong readers with a love of mystery and of historical fiction.

Verity Sparks and the Scarlet Hand, by Susan Green
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN 9781922244895

Also in the series:
The Truth About Verity Sparks
Verity Sparks, Lost and Found

How the Sun Got to Coco's House, by Bob Graham

How the Sun Got to Coco's HouseIt had to start somewhere.
While Coco slept faraway, the sun crept up
slowly behind a hill, paused for a moment,
seemed to think twice…
before it plunged down the other side and skidded gently across the water.

This delightful homage to the sun and sunshine traces the sun as it rises in a farway land, seen only by polar bears, then travels around the globe, shining on children and animals in many countries, crossing beaches, mountains, forests and oceans, before finally shining through Coco’s window, waking her and her family, and spending the day shining on her and her friends.

From master Australian creator Bob Graham, How the Sun Got to Coco’s House has the simple yet expressive style that fans of his work have come to know and love. From polar bears to people, cityscapes to vast deserts, every pages ia delight created in simple lines, muted colours and text of just a setence or two.

A celebration of sunshine and of life everywhere, How the Sun Got to Coco’s House is beautiful.

How the Sun Got to Coco’s House, by Bob Graham
Walker Books, 2015
ISBN 9781406359008

Available from good bookstores and online.