I Spy Mum! by Janeen Brian & Chantal Stewart

I spy with my little eye
mums all starting with m.
But can I find the one who’s mine?
Will she be with them?

A young boy sailor is searching for his mum. He sits in his boat and peers out through his telescope. With gentle rhythmic language he tells of the mums he sees. There are drawing mums and roaring mums, making mums and baking mums. But none of them are his. There is a refrain, to let the reader know that the search must continue, and never be given up. Of course, he ultimately finds his own mum and they sail off together on the ocean. Illustrations are watercolour with plenty of white space. Text meanders around the pages, much as the searcher does with his telescope. There is always a sense that he will eventually find his mother.

I Spy Mum! is a celebration of the special relationship between child and mother. It might be on the tennis court, stringing flowers or sailing the seas, but the main point is that children love to share time with their mum. They like doing all sorts with mums, including playing hide and seek. The text is short, the language simple with repetition of sounds, and children will soon be predicting the next word, then ‘reading’ the whole text. The relationships portrayed are varied but all warm and inclusive. I Spy Mum! is a companion to ‘I Spy Dad!’ and will be enjoyed by young, pre-reading and early reading children.

I Spy Mum!

I Spy Mum! Janeen Brian, ill Chantal Stewart
New Frontier 2010
ISBN: 9781921042164

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn't Fart, by Matthew Johnstone

There once was a boy called Harvey.
Harvey’s life was pretty good except for one thing…
No matter how hard Harvey tried,
he just couldn’t fart.

You’d think that everyone who has a bottom could fart, but it seems not. Although everyone around him seems to have no trouble producing all manner of flatulence, poor old Harvey just can’t join in. Even Mum can fart although she prefers not to do so in public. And as evidence mounts that Harvey is the only person in the world unable to fart, he becomes sadder and sadder. It is said that a problem shared is a problem halved and when Grandad notices his sadness, Harvey tells him about his non-farting problem. Never fear! Grandad has a solution. Harvey’s life is turned around. Illustrations use digital media and a broad pastel pallet, almost retro in style, perhaps suggesting the age-old nature of farting?

Small children (and plenty of not-so-small) are fascinated by farts. They are also intent on learning to do everything that those around them can. Sometimes this is about copying, other times it’s about realising that they are naturally doing what others are doing. Like farting. Universal you’d think. But not for Harvey. Matthew Johnstone inserts many of the common euphemisms for farts, but also the behaviours around this daily function. The dog provides ‘silent but violent’ farts, his sister prefers to fart in private and his friends have competitions for ‘backfiring.’ Even a bird ‘toots’. Grandad might provide the tool, but it’s Harvey’s use of it that wins awards. And in case sharing all the fart words wasn’t enough, readers can learn how to make their own award-winning farts. Sure to open discussion on your family’s particular words for farts, but hopefully not graphic illustration! Recommended for pre- and early primary children. *note: comes with a Fart-o-matic!

Harvey, the Boy Who Couldn’t Fart, Matthew Johnstone
Walker Books 2010
ISBN: 9781921529832

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Tussock, by Elizabeth Pulford

‘Hurry up, slowcoach,’ called Kate. She glanced over at her younger sister. They should be at the hut by now, not hanging about the lake. She’d promised her mum that they wouldn’t be long.
Madeline took no notice. She kept scouring the edge of the water. Picking up one stone after another. Looking at each in turn, feeling them with her fingers and then, dissatisfied, dropping them.

Kate’s dad goes missing on a routine small plane flight. Now all Kate, her sister Madeline and her mother can do is wait. Kate isn’t content to just sit and wait so she goes up to the old hut on the hill behind their farm. She lights a lantern every night, so Dad will see it and know he’s home. Madeline has her own method of ensuring her father’s safety and return. She’s building a stone man. Legend has it that when completed, he will find her father. While visiting the hut they meet Troy, a mysterious boy full of secrets. He might divert all Kate’s questions, but he also provides a distraction while she and her family wait. On the day Kate’s father went missing, they had a fight. Their fight seems so trivial now when compared with the possibility that she might never see him again.

Rites of passage can take many forms, and for Kate, it’s a potential tragedy that helps her grow up. She realises that she’s not the only one who is grieving, is waiting to hear about her dad. She also discovers that not all families are equal, that not every family functions as well as hers has. She is bedded down in a wonderfully comfortable world full of history, love and trust. She develops some perspective on a major family decision that she has been resisting. There are strong themes of family, community, trust and safety. Kate is a resourceful, likable character who keeps the lantern lit for her father, while adjusting to the reality that he may never return. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

Tussock

Tussock, Elizabeth Pulford
Walker Books Australia 2010
ISBN: 9781921529450

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond.

Shrieking Violet, by Emma Quay

Hello! This is my book
and it’s all about me!

A young girl wants to share her day with her mum and the reader, but is finding it difficult. Her little sister keeps distracting attention from her. Whether it’s falling over and crying loudly, or having to be diverted from mischief, Violet, with her very loud little voice, is everywhere. The girl perseveres, doing her best to ignore Violet and her interruptions, but this toddler is difficult to ignore. Eventually she’s had enough and has a shrieking fit of her own. While Mum comforts the main character, Violet tries to make amends. ‘Shrieking Violet’ ends with the two playing together, although the main character is still centre stage. Illustrations are bright and loose, almost messy in brush and ink, acrylic paint and collage. Backgrounds are spots, the size varying on different pages. And the page where the main character finally loses her cool? The yellow spots are large and almost vibrating with indignation.

It can be tough to lose your place in the family. Babies and toddlers draw the attention of family because their needs are immediate and constant. Sharing Mum can be tough. But this young girl makes a good job of entertaining Mum, refusing to be diverted. Violet is just doing what toddlers do…experimenting, copying, wanting to be part of the action. And that’s what the main character discovers. If she lets her little sister be involved, there’s more chance of Mum staying engaged too. This is a delightful picture book that captures family dynamics and personalities with simple images and few words. The reader will see that this situation is going to change and anticipate her eventual boil over. The resolution is satisfying and realistic. Recommended for preschoolers and early school age children.

Shrieking Violet

Shrieking Violet, Emma Quay
Scholastic Press 2010
ISBN: 9781741695687

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased in any good bookstore, or online from Fishpond.

Precious Little by Julie Hunt and Sue Moss

Precious Little wanted to fly
but she was only a circus hand.
She worked for the Light Fantastics. Every night she watched them flash through the air.
They walked the high wire and did swan dives and double somersaults way up in the big top.
They were brave and strong and they never looked down.

Precious Little is part of the circus, but not the part she’d like to be. While others tumble and spin in the air, she is cleaning shoes and retrieving fallen sequins. She tries, but her efforts are clumsy and awkward compared to these high-flyers. It seems she will never be more than an assistant. Others ask her to join their acts, but it’s an aerial performer she wants to be. Then her friends, Fat Chance and Tough Luck offer her the opportunity to try out her skills on a rope stretched across the top of their lucky dip. Gaye Chapman’s illustrations burst from the page, spinning and twirling like the best circus act. She uses every part of every page in an explosion of colour and movement. For Precious Little she used sepia ink line drawings, acrylic ink plus tea-stained paintings and collaged metallic papers.

Precious Little is a very rich offering. The co-written story is poetic and filled with wonderful names from Precious Little herself (which can be interpreted as nothing or everything) to Fat Chance and Tough Luck, faded old characters who mother Precious Little. The illustrations fill each opening, with text ribboning across and around the page, like the music that floats through a circus tent and beyond. The front endpapers show the circus tent and a high tower with both seen at a distance set in a road-crossed landscape. The end endpapers show the same landscape but Precious Little is now inside with her friends, part of the circus rather than a wishing observer. This a picture book for slightly older children, though younger readers will enjoy the rhythm of the language and the sumptuous illustrations.

Precious Little

Precious Little, Julie Hunt & Sue Moss, ill Gaye Chapman
Allen & Unwin 2010
ISBN: 9781741751475

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

I Love Ollie Activity Book, by Anna Walker

An activity book based on Ollie’s ‘I Love…’ books. Spot the difference between pictures of Ollie preparing for a beach trip; join the dots; colour and draw; add your own touches to a seascape and garden, using stickers and colours. And plenty more, besides!

Ideal for anyone who loves Ollie.

I Love Ollie Activity Book, Anna Walker
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741696455

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased in good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Tall Man & the Twelve Babies, by Tom Niland Champion & Kilmeny Niland

In a big, big city,
in a tiny, tiny apartment,
lived a tall, tall man
and twelve babies.
All the boys were called Alistair.
All the girls were called Charlene.
One day the door slams shut…with the Charlenes on one side and the Alistairs on another.
What will the tall man do?

This humorous picture book is a riot of babies and silliness. The tall man with his six boy babies and six girl babies strike a problem when the Tall Man and the Charlenes are trapped outside the apartment, with the Alistairs inside. Only through some quick thinking does the Tall Man solve the problem – with the babies’ combined help.

Youngsters will love the silliness of the storyline and the illustrations. Adult readers too will enjoy the fun. This book is a collaboration between Tom Niland Champion and his mother Kilmeny Niland, who sadly passed away before the book was completed. Her twin sister Deborah Niland illustrated the story, making this is a real family collaboration.

A joyful book.

The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies

The Tall Man and the Twelve Babies, by Tom Niland Champion & Kilmeny Niland, illustrated by Deborah Niland
Allen & Unwin, 2010
ISBN 9781742371153

This book can be purchased online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Diary of a Would-be Princess 3, by Jessica Green

Sunday, 27th December
Bah, humbug, ho ho ho.
What sort of Christmas is it when your present is pens and folders and lined paper to set you up for high school? Who wants to think about school now? And this book. It’s a journal. Mum says it’s to jot down notes and important dates like when assignments are due. Why think of that at Christmas?

This is the third instalment of Jillian’s diaries and now she’s finished with primary school and beginning high school. Each of the previous novels covered a year, as does this one. In her first diary, Jillian sought to be one of the princesses at school. Now, at the start of Year 7, the princesses are still around but joining them is no longer her aspiration. But she does want to fit in, to make new friends, to be popular. There are a few kids from her old school, her old friendship group, but they don’t necessarily fit her idea of high school friends. She finds a new friend, then discovers that she’s uncomfortable with some of the things her friend does. Although she initially finds her friend’s pranks funny, for her the joke soon wears off. Then she needs to decide just what’s important to her and what she will do to achieve her goals. To help and hinder her are her family, Mum, Dad, older brother Richard and younger brother Paul.

Jilly wants to fit in. But fitting in sometimes means compromising on the values you’ve grown up with, the values you live with. Jilly has an annoying older brother who sends her advice on calendar discard pages, a just-starting-school younger brother who needs looking after, a mother who wants her to be a girl, and a dad she can still talk to. She’s very lucky and part of her knows it. But it takes her setting aside her own woes and looking behind the behaviour of other people to really appreciate her family and the strong foundations she has. Jilly is a strong-minded, outspoken character with a wry humour and a good sense of right and wrong. Her diary is funny, insightful and affirming. It reads well as a stand-alone, although the title is a little misleading for this particular instalment. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

Diary of a Would-be Princess 3, Jessica Green
Scholastic Press 2010
ISBN: 9781741697407

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author
www.clairesaxby.com

This book can be purchased from all good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this supports Aussiereviews.

Shake a Leg, by Boori Monty Pryor & Jan Ormerod

All you fellas watching, come up, join in, warrima.
Clap your hands, little ones.
Stamp your feet, nannas.
Get down and dance, you smart young things, mummas and daddas.
A-huh A-huh Ahuh
We’ve got the whole town dancing.

In Northern Queensland three boys enter a pizza shop in search of food – but they get far more than they’re expecting. The pizza chef is a Murri man who speaks Italian, having learnt to cook in Italy. While the pizza cooks he tells the boys stories of his culture and, after the pizza is eaten, he calls his own children to come and share their dance with the boys.

Shake a Leg is a glorious celebration of food, dance and the sharing of cultures. Modern and traditional scenes blend across the pages, many of which use graphic novel panels and speech bubbles, so that the dialogue often stands without additional need for explanation. This format also makes the book likely to appeal to a broad age range of readers.

A collaboration between award winning author and storyteller Boori Monty Pryor and illustrator Jan Ormerod, this is an outstanding offering.

Shake a Leg

Shake a Leg, by Boori Monty Pryor & Jan Ormerod
Allen & Unwin, 2010
ISBN 9781741758900

This book can be purchased from good bookstores, or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

Zizzy, by Penny Matthews & Danny Snell

‘It’s the sea,’ said the bird. ‘It’s where the sun rises. It’s the beginning of the rest of the world. Come with me, and I’ll show you.’
‘I can’t do that,’ said Zizzy. ‘I am a sloth. I can only sleep and eat. And dream.’
The bird looked at him with her bright eyes. ‘You don’t know what you can do until you try,’ she said.

Zizzy the sloth lives in the jungle, where he hangs upside down in a tree, eating leaves or sleeping and dreaming. When he catches a glimpse of something blue in the distance, he wonders what it is, but when Bird tells him about the sea, Zizzy thinks it is too far away for a sloth like him to visit. Bird encourages him to try, and, with Bird’s encouragement sloth makes the slow journey to the sea, where he is amazed by the things he sees.

Zizzy is a beautiful tale about following dreams, self-belief and the value of friendship. A bird and a sloth is an unlikely pairing, but it is this pairing which shows just what is possible when an individual receives encouragement from a friend.

Penny Matthew’s wise text is brought to life in acrylic illustrations by Danny Snell showing the magnific contrast between the lush green jungle and the wide blue expanses of the sea, as well as the beautiful orange sunrise. Ziggy, too, is cleverly rendered to show his efforts and emotions.

Beautiful

Zizzy

Zizzy, by Penny Matthews & Danny Snell
Omnibus, 2010
ISBN 9781862917972

This book can be purchased from good bookstores or online from Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.