Pea Pod Lullaby, by Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King

I am the small green pea
you are the tender pod
hold me.

This gently lilting lullaby weaves its way across the pages of the book, with no more than three lines per spread, encouraging the text to be read and digested slowly. The text speaks of love and togetherness, and how people complete each other, in language that could apply as much to a parent and child as to any pairing of friends or partners.

The accompanying illustrations tell the tale of a mother, her two children and a dog, fleeing danger in a little boat, and drifting across the sea. They rescue a polar bear, also adrift, before finally finding land and a welcome. The illustrations, in watercolour with ink outlines, are tenderly whimsical, and slightly older readers will be able to make links to tales of refugees and displacement, as well as issues of global warming, among others, whilst babies and toddlers, and their parents, will be lulled by the gentle hues coupled with the tender words.

Simply beautiful.

Pea Pod Lullaby, by Glenda Millard, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Allen & Unwin, 2017
ISBN 9781760290085

Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle, illustrated by Stephen Michael King

Apparently, dragons don’t exist.
Apparently, dragons are all in my imagination.
That’s what Nina Willis said, anyway, on the Monday before the Monday before last.

When a new kid named Nina arrives at school, Georgia soon learns that Nina doesn’t believe in dragons. Which makes Georgia sad, and a little bit cross, because her friend, Trouble is a dragon. Worse, though, when Trouble finds out someone doesn’t believe in him, he starts to change. Georgia needs to find a way to get Nina to believe.

Trouble and the New Kid is the third story featuring trouble and Georgia, but sits well on its own for those new to the series. Georgia is a wonderful heroine, warm hearted, but often in trouble at school. Trouble, too, is fun and the concept behind the series is wonderful.

Illustrated with greay scale illustrations by the whimsical Stephen Michael King, Trouble and the New Kid  will appeal to junior primary aged readers and anyone who loves whimsy.

Trouble and the New Kid, by Cate Whittle
Omnibus, 2017
ISBN 9781742990781

review by Sally Murphy, children’s author, reviewer and poet

My Dad is a Giraffe, by Stephen Michael King

My dad is big and tall
gentle and fun.
My dad is a giraffe!

When your dad is a giraffe, you can climb up his legs, slide down his neck and ride on his back. He can see a long way, and do amazing things. In My Dad is a Giraffe, Dad is depicted as a giraffe, with the human child loving what Dad can do – and the opening and closing illustrations cleverly showing that Dad is not really a giraffe, but that his imaginative child sees his height and cleverness as giraffe-like.

The text is simple, and a perfect complement to the whimsical illustrations which show what a giraffe-dad can get up to, as well as showing Mum as a zebra. Youngsters will love exploring the detail of these illustrations, as well as the message of love and connection between the father and child.

Filled with the gentle, imaginative fun that Stephen Michael King is known for, My Dad is a Giraffe is wonderful.

My Dad is a Giraffe, by Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 2015
ISBN 9781743625941

Bella and the Wandering House, by Meg McKinlay

Bella and the wandering house cover‘Sorry.’ Bella lifted her foot. She hopped onto the path and looked back at the house. And as she did, a shiver prickled her skin. Because what she saw made no sense. The front steps ran down the veranda – the way they always had, the way they must. But where they should have met the path – the way they always had, the way they must … they didn’t.
Instead, things were crooked. It was if the world had shifted sideways a little, in a quiet sort of way…

Bella is the only one who notices that her house is doing strange things. Her mum and dad, caught up in their busy lives, think she’s dreaming when she says that the house has moved. But soon the house starts moving further and further from their yard, and even Bella’s parents are forced to take notice when they wake up next to a pond. But it is Bella who figures out why the house is moving, and what they can do to help it.

Bella and the Wandering House is a whimsical tale of a wandering house, imagination and memories. The gentle mystery of why the house wanders – and what can be done about it – is resolved agianst the background of a lovely relationship between Bella and her grandfather. Bella is an independent, strong character, and and the change in her parents as the story proceeds is satisfying.

Suitable for junior primary readers.

Bella and the Wandering House, by Meg McKinlay
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162301

Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? by Kyle Hughes-Odgers

Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray?How does sound taste?
Do colours smell?
Why do onions make me cry?
Who builds the wings for birds to fly?

Children love to ask questions – even (or sometimes, it seems, especially) questions which can’t be answered, so they will love Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? which is filled with questions. From practical questions (Why do onions make me cry?)  to whimsical questions (Can a skeleton have an x-ray?) to deep, even philosophical questions (How does the future look?) there are questions to ponder, discuss and even laugh about.

Hughes-Odgers’ quirky illustrations will delight readers of all ages. In black ink with watercolour, each illustration uses cross-hatching and detailed line work with earthy colour tones, to bing to life imaginative scenes which will inspire as much discussion as the questions themselves.

A visual feast,Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? is a unique, inspirational book for children and adults.

Can a Skeleton Have an X-Ray? by Kyle Hughes-Odgers
Fremantle Press, 2015
ISBN 9781925162691

A House for Donfinkle, by Choechoe Brereton & Wayne Harris

Up high in the grasslands
where Wooble Beasts roam,
Donfinkle Vonkrinkle
is building his home.

Donfinkle Vonkrinkle is happily building his perfect home, with the walls door, windows and porch all just the way he likes them. Everything is fine – until first a Flooble, then a Mooble, a Gooble and finally a Blooble all arrive to tell him what is wrong with his house. Donfinkle quickly gets to work fixing and changing his house – till he realises that his house is no longer perfect. Fortunately, his contrite friends help him to set it to rights.

A House for Donfinkle is a delightful rhyming picture book by début author Choechoe Brereton. The text has a simple message about self-belief, told in a joyful, whimsical way. The rhyming text scans beautifully, making it perfect for reading aloud and for multiple rereadings. The digital illustrations, by seasoned illustrator Wayne Harris are filled with whimsical detail and rendered in a pastel palette which serves as a wonderful complement to the gentle message of the text.

Lovely.

 

A House for Donfinkle, by Choechoe Brereton & Wayne Harris
Walker Books, 2014
ISBN 9781921720536

Available from good bookstores and online.

The Magnificent Tree, by Nick Bland & Stephen Michael King

Pop liked Bonny’s ideas because they were simple, clever and properly made.
Bonny liked Pop’s ideas because they were big, brave and brilliant with bits sticking out.

The Magnificent Tree

Bonny and Pop have lots of wonderful ideas, for all kinds of things, but so far they haven’t had an idea for the birds. Every day the birds fly over them and away. When Bonny decides they need a tree to attract the birds, Pop agrees – and each sets out to make one. Pop’s idea is big and brave, but Bonny’s is simple. It takes a whole year for their ideas to come to fruition, but in spring the birds come – and stay.

The Magnificent Tree is a wonderful celebration of whimsy, creativity and simplicity, as well as the bond between grandparent and grandchild. Coming from the combined talents of two of Australia’s leading picture book creators, this is an absolute treasure of a book, with text that sings its way cross the pages and a pair of lovable characters shown revelling in life – and each other.

Youngsters will giggle at the silliness of some of the ideas and images, and will find satisfaction in the resolution.

Truly magnificent.
The Magnificent Tree, by Nick Bland and Stephen Michael King
Scholastic 2012
ISBN 9781742832951

Available from good bookstores or online.

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.