You are My Special Baby, Carol Chataway & Danny Snell

You are My Special Baby is a lovely tribute to the relationship between a parent and a child. The cover art depicts a sugar glider parent and child atop a waratah and each opening reveals another Australian pair in their particular Australian habitat. From the platypuses underwater to the kangaroos in the red sand inland, each pair is accompanied by an affirmation of the relationship between an infant and a caring adult. Illustrations are acrylic paint on board and full double page with text imposed on the paintings. Extraneous detail has been omitted to keep the focus on the relationships portrayed.

This is a lovely book, perfect for a new baby, and/or new parent. (Or grandparent, or any carer or significant person in a child’s life. The words are simple, the images clear. There are little puns reflected in the connection between text and image. It would also be a perfect book for sending overseas, depicting as it does our wonderful fauna, flora and landscape. Highly recommended for babies and young children or as a gift.

You are My Special Baby

You are My Special Baby, Carol Chataway & Danny Snell
Working Title Press 2011
ISBN: 9781921504181

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Scatterbungle, by Edrei Cullen

Ella sat up with a start, catapulting the snoring pixie tucked under her chin across the bed. Her shoulders tingled and her hair flared in the dark, its honey colours shining strangely in the light of the moon. She grabbed the tips of her terribly pointy ears. They were burning up!
‘Gracious, blimey!’ yelled the pixie, as he landed upside down on the mattress, his striped stockings kicking up in the air. He slapped a tiny green hand across his mouth, suddenly mindful of all the other sleeping bodies in the quiet dormitory. Even though he was only the size of a pepper pot, he had a big voice!

Scatterbungle is the third adventure featuring Ella, the Clearheart. She’s at Hedgeberry, the magical school, but she knows there is something very wrong. For one thing, she keeps having dreadful nightmares that show her school in flames. And two of her giant friends have disappeared, and there’s been a prison breakout. Then there’s the Scatterbungle. It’s clearly going to be up to Ella to sort out what’s going on. But this is much bigger than just one person. Ella needs the help of friends if she is going to intervene in the battle between this world and the magical one. Her friends are willing, but in many cases don’t seem able to help. Ella must help them realise their abilities if together they are to have any chance of finally, once and for all, overcoming the dastardly Duke.

Scatterbungle, like early books in this series, is magical. Imagine going to school to learn how to catch dreams and extract memories. And taking a trip to somewhere on the other side of the world, by diving into the local stream. Some of Ella’s classmates can conjure fire, others can talk to animals, yet others care for and communicate with the trees. Most can fly. I want to go to this school! But as well as being a grand adventure, Scatterbungle reinforces the power of friendship. It also reminds that ability is one thing, but without confidence and self-belief, ability will never be enough. This is a classic good vs evil struggle and will be Ella’s most challenging adventure. There’s also themes around rites of passage, where Ella begins to challenge her father’s silence and to ask more questions about the death of her mother and brothers. Recommended for upper primary.

Scatterbungle (Flitterwig)

Scatterbungle, Edrei Cullen & Gregory Rogers
Scholastic Australia 2011

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess, by Leigh Hobbs

Mr Badger had excellent manners plus a great deal of patience. But you probably knew that already.
This is why he didn’t just manage special events at the Boubles Grand Hotel (pronounced Boublay). Mr Badger was also the Manager of Special Guests – and sometimes very special guests.
Special guests weren’t treated all that differently to anyone else. It was just that film stars and princesses, kings queens and famous orchestra conductors often caused a fuss because people wanted to stare at them and point.

Mr Badger never knows quite what his day might bring. When you are Manager of Special Events, AND of Special Guests, it could be anything. So when the Duchess de la Dodo arrives unexpectedly, demanding the Royal Suite, he deals with it with his trademark patience and goodwill. But it seems nothing is quite enough for the Duchess. Meanwhile tonight is the Annual Dinner for the Philatelic Society, and there’s the Grand Ballroom to be preparing. You know, chandeliers to be polished, parquetry to be buffed, place names to be placed and shy philatelists to be put at their ease. Of course there is drama unforeseen…

Leigh Hobbs both writes and illustrates and here his trademark quirky characters are combined with deadpan humour. The action is set in an old-style London hotel, where the guests are treated like royalty, no matter their eccentric or demanding behaviour. The reader will cheer for Mr Badger and boo the baddies in these almost-vaudeville tales. And it’s lovely to then see the unflappable Mr Badger at home with his own family doing normal things and entertaining his wife with the antics at Boubles Grand Hotel. There are illustrations on each page, breaking up the text and enriching the narrative. Ideal for newly independent readers, reluctant readers and fans of Leigh Hobbs’ stories.

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess

Mr Badger and the Difficult Duchess, Leigh Hobbs
Allen&Unwin 2011
ISBN: 9781742374192

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Waiting for Later, by Tina Matthews

‘I know I’m big, but today I feel small,’
said Nancy to no one in particular.
And she slid
from the top of the stairs to the bottom.

Nancy is feeling very little. She’s played by herself and really would quite like someone to do SOMETHING with her. One by one, she asks her family members, but they are all too busy with other things. They always promise that they’ll be able to play with her…later. So Nancy climbs a tree and she entertains herself watching others, looking for bugs and more, while she waits for ‘later’ to arrive. The text is set on the left of each opening for the first part of the book, with Nancy shown in silhouette on the page with text. On the right hand side, images fill the page and are full of life and texture. In the second half of the book, Nancy is shown on the left page, in the tree. On the right page is the text and silhouettes of her family completing whatever it is that they were doing.

Waiting can be tough, particularly when you are feeling alone and small, and in need of company and reassurance. The tree, once Nancy finds it, is welcoming and entertaining. In a way, it provides all the company and games she’d been searching for. And her time in the tree restores her sense of self and Nancy again feels big. All is again right with the world. This is a lovely story about resilience, and self-reliance, in the middle of a loving but busy extended family. Recommended for 4-7 year olds.

Waiting for Later

Waiting for Later, Tina Matthews
Walker Books 2011
ISBN: 9781921720055

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

The Pout-Pout Fish, by Deborah Diesen & Dan Hanna

Deep in the water
Where the fish hang out
Lives a glum gloomy swimmer
With an ever-present pout.

I’m a pout-pout fish
With a pout-pout face,
So I spread the dreary-wearies
All over the place.

Blub Bluuub Bluuuuuuub

Poor old Mr Fish! Destined to be gloomy and glum and to spread the gloom to everyone he sees. Casual comments, jovial suggestions, grumpy commands to cheer up all meet with the same response from Mr Fish. That he is a pout-pout fish and he has no choice but to look grim. He must be, there is no one around him who looks or acts like him. But then along comes a newcomer. The story is told in rhyme, with repetition which will encourage young ‘readers’ to join in. Illustrations are cartoony and colourful with some pages divided to provide extra frames. This sea is very full with some recognisable and less familiar sea-dwellers.

The Pout-pout Fish is a simple story about destiny and when it just isn’t. Mr Fish has accepted that he is the way he is and that he has no choice to be different. Despite his gloominess, he seems to have many friends, even if those friends are imploring him to change. Then a chance encounter makes him see himself in very different way. He is still who he is, but he’s much easier to have around. There are many little sea creatures to find in each image, and unusual plants too. Children will enjoy finding the same creatures on each page, and looking at what’s different. Recommended for 4-6 year olds.

The Pout-pout Fish

The Pout-pout Fish, Deborah Diesen & Dan Hanna
Scholastic Australia 2011
ISBN: 9781742830063

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Mozzie and Midgie, by Doug MacLeod & Sandy Okalyi

Mozzie and Midgie lived with their family
on the shore of a Queensland tropical island.
The two little spoonbills were happy, until
one day they met a boastful parrot.

Mozzie and Midgie, brother and sister lived happily with their family until a parrot arrived, screeching just how beautiful she was, and how very plain they were. The two spoonbills believed what they were told, that they were not beautiful, were not special, and they set out to make themselves beautiful, like the parrot. They try several ways of being beautiful, wearing costumes of leaves and crabs and even octopus ink. Although their costumes add colour, they do not, Mozzie and Midgie decide, make them beautiful. With the help of their family they discover just what makes spoonbills beautiful, what makes them special. Illustrations are very stylized, using block colours with black outlines.

As children, most of us think we are beautiful and special because our families ensure that we are told so, that we believe so. But there are always others who would build their own sense of being beautiful by comparing themselves favourably with others. So it is here. It is not enough for the parrot to be beautiful, she has to make himself more so by telling Mozzie and Midgie that they are less so. It’s so easy to listen to voices that would diminish us. Fortunately, Mozzie and Midgie’s family are there to remind the young spoonbills what it is that makes them special. There is a gentle message about all animals having a purpose and beauty. The illustrations are striking and gently humorous. They are also downright gorgeous! Recommended for 4-7 year olds.

Mozzie and Midgie

Mozzie and Midgie, Doug MacLeod & Sandy Okalyi
Omnibus Books 2011
ISBN: 9781921504310

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Tropical Trouble, by Aleesah Darlison

Monday 19 April. 1:15 pm.
Ah, I love the smell of blank paper in the afternoon! This is my third fabulous diary and it’s totally brand new. I started keeping a diary a few months back so I could have something for myself.
I have an identical twin sister, Portia, who is only two minutes older than me – although she thinks she’s so much cooler and more mature. She and I usually share EVERYTHING. Sometimes we even get mistaken for each other because we look so similar.
But I got this idea that keeping a diary would be one thing I could do on my own.

Persephone has begun a new diary, this time a travel diary. She and twin sister Portia are going to Fiji with their travel-writer grandmother. The only downside to this holiday is that they also have to take Dillon, seven-year old pest from next door. But it’s hard to stay too grumpy about that, when you are on a tropical island. As usual Portia makes friends really easily, which leaves Persephone on her own. Well, almost on her own. While Portia is off with her friends, and Gran is writing for her book, Persephone is stuck with Dillon. All the activities at Kids Club seem to be geared towards Portia’s interests and even Ash, the son of the resort owner seems to prefer Portia. Persephone records it all, ups and downs, adventures and dramas in her diary.

This is the third instalment in the Totally Twins series. This time the girls get to go on holiday, but although they are in a different place, their respective personalities mean that it’s business as usual. The twins are alike to look at but have quite different natures. While Portia is the more assertive, Persephone is the more observant and more aware of the feelings of others. But they are both excited to be on holidays, experiencing new things, even if some of those new things are a little frightening at first. This time, Persephone gets to know Dillon a bit better. She discovers that despite the petty squabbles with her sister, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She also realises that Dillon isn’t quite the pest she always thought he was. Recommended for mid-primary readers.

Totally Twins 3: Tropical Trouble, Aleesah Darlison, Serena Geddes
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9871921042690

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers, by Sarah Horne

Pencil. Check. Ruler. Check. Calculator…Check.’ Molly Potsome finished packing her bag for her first day at her new school and sat on the end of her bed.
Her eye fell on her neat school uniform hanging from the wardrobe. For the first time she felt a little nervous. What will school be like tomorrow? Will my teacher be strict? Will I make any new friends?


Molly looked after her neighbours’ cat, Mimi, while the family were on holiday. She was amazed to discover that Mimi talks, and loves dressing up. What a cat! But now the very rich Von Volavons are home and Mimi has gone home too. Now there’s school to worry about. Molly is new to this school and knows no one, not even Saffron Von Volavon. And it seems that Saffron is keen to keep it that way. Not a good start. Things become worse when Molly is paired with Saffron to do the costumes for ‘Bring a Pet’ day. Saffron has no intention of working with Molly. Things are looking miserable for Molly who doesn’t even have a pet, until Mimi becomes her pet for the day. Mayhem and madness ensue as Mimi and her costumes threaten to steal the show.

The best way to deal with a bully is to ignore them. But that’s hard to do when they live next door, they’re in your classroom and you have to sit next to them. Then it helps to have a really thick skin and some diversions. Oh, and the affection of a really unusual cat. Then you are so busy wondering what that cat is going to get up to, that the bully’s antics almost pass you by. Wrapped up in a fun and fantastical adventure, Molly is shown how to manage a bully, the bully gets her comeuppance and Molly learns how to make friends. Recommended for newly independent readers to mid-primary.

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers (Molly & Mimi)

Paws, Claws and Frilly Drawers , Sarah Horne
Scholastic Australia 2011
ISBN: 9781741698817

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

This book is available from good bookstores or online from Fishpond.

Roman Holiday, by Kathy Buchanan

‘Mrs Rizzo,’ I said shyly, looking over at the Italian woman who’d just picked me up from Rome airport. She was going to be my ‘house mother’ at the Giovane Drammatico Collegio. ‘I know it’s late, but do you think we could make a stop at the Trevi Fountain, even just for a minute? My mum told me when she visited Rome she made a wish there and it came true.’ As soon as I’d met Mrs Rizzo I could tell she was really nice, but I still felt stupid asking.
‘Veronica, darling, the school looks – er…lovely!’ said Mother, trying her best to sound convincing as eh looked dubiously at Giovane Drammatico Collegio.
I was already in a seriously bad mood after surviving the ten-hour flight in premium economy class (gross) and no first class like I’d been promised. then to top it all off, I find out the supposedly exclusive summer acting school I’d had to audition for and pull serious strings to get into was a crumbly old dump.

Natalie and Veronica have both come to Rome to spend their summer at the Giovane Drammatico Collegio, honing their acting skills. But that’s where the similarities between them end. Natalie has travelled from Australia and her family have scrimped to get her there. To help pay her tuition fees, she will also work in the Collegio kitchen. Veronica, from New York, and is used to having the best, or at least the most expensive of everything. Her parents are divorced and Veronica lives with her mother, although this doesn’t stop her spending her father’s money. It is no surprise then, that these two girls are to spend the summer sharing a room. The scene is set for an exciting summer. Both must prove themselves worthy if they are to win a place in the end of summer production.

Roman Holiday uses alternating first person voice (and font) to bring the reader close to both the main characters. Natalie is shy, except when she’s on stage, and Veronica’s over-the-top bad-girl behaviour is a mask that she wears for protection. Kathy Buchanan presents the reader with one likeable main character and one very unlikeable one. She then sets about unravelling initial judgements as slowly she exposes Veronica’s secrets and Natalie’s strengths. Each has come to Rome with expectations and hopes. Rome and the Collegio deliver, but not necessarily in the way they expect. Recommended for upper primary-early secondary readers.

Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday, Kathy Buchanan
Scholastic 2010
ISBN: 9781741693904

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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

Little Treasures, by Peter Carnarvas

Peter Carnavas has released these titles separately as standard-sized picture books over the past few years. Last Tree in the City has an environmental theme, Jessica’s Box is about connection with other people, The Important Things is about remembering and Sarah’s Heavy Heartis about friendship. Now the four titles come in a mini format, each with its own envelope. They form part of a Little Treasure series.

It’s easy to imagine these books being tucked in with other presents for a birthday or Christmas, or sent through the mail the way a card is, to brighten someone’s day or just to say ‘I’m thinking of you.’ Each is like a gentle hug. They are suited to young children, simple stories with subtle messages about endurance, courage, connection and love. But they are also destined, particularly in this format, to be exchanged between adults, trying to communicate when they are struggling with finding words themselves. Others might buy the books individually for themselves as a pick-me-up, or reminder of what is important in life.

Last Tree in the City, Peter Carnavas New Frontier Publishing 2011 ISBN: 9781921928123
Jessica’s Box, Peter Carnavas New Frontier Publishing 2011 ISBN: 9781921928093
The Important Things, Peter Carnavas New Frontier Publishing 2011 ISBN: 9781921928116
Sarah’s Heavy Heart, Peter Carnavas New Frontier Publishing 2011 ISBN: 9781921928109

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

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