My Dog Bigsy, by Alison Lester

Book Cover:  My Dog BigsyThis is my dog, Bigsy.
He sleeps on my bed every night
and he hardly makes a sound.
But when Dad lets him out in the morning,
I hear him barking all around the farm.

Most of the time Bigsy the dog is quiett, but first thing in the morning he runs around the farm and barks at everything. He chases the cockatoos out of the orchard. They squawk and screech as they flee. Then he sends the kangaroos bouncing away from the farm, before greeting the horses, cows, ducks and more. Finally, though, he heads home for breakfast, and – exhausted from all that action – another sleep.

My Dog Bigsy is a delightful celebration of playful dogs, farm life, and noise. Youngsters will soon be joining in with the squawks, neighs and quacks, and everyone will fall in love with orange and white Bigsy. The design of the book is also to love, with the tactile canvas feel cover echoed in the green linen hills of the outside scenes, against which Bigsy and the other animals are collaged.

Perfect for early childhood readers and dog lovers of all ages, My Dog Bigsy is adorable.

My Dog Bigsy, by Alison Lester
Penguin, 2015
ISBN 9780670078936

The Quicksand Pony by Alison Lester (15th Anniversary Edition)

It’s fifteen years since ‘The Quicksand Pony’ was originally released and it has lost nothing of its appeal. It is as relevant and as gripping as it was on first release.

The moon was full the night they disappeared. Windswept paddocks lay clear and blue under high tatters of cloud. A car lurched, without lights, along the rutted road that ran from the town to the bay. It moved erratically, urgently, as though the driver didn’t know how to drive. The wind whipped away the sound of the engine…

Nine years later …

Biddy thought she lived in the perfect spot, with the town on one side, the headland on the other, and the bay in front. Sometimes she rode up to the gravel ridge behind the stockyards and planned how she would defend her kingdom if she were a princess.

Biddy lives with her parents on a farm on the edge of town and the edge of wilderness. She is bright and curious and desperate to be a cowgirl and help with the mustering. It’s tricky and tiring mustering cattle from the scrubby headland, and the country is full of mystery and unexpected danger. Biddy’s pony becomes stuck in quicksand on the beach. Next morning, the pony is gone, but there are footprints on the beach. Biddy can’t imagine who it could be, the headland is wilderness. No one could possibly live there, particularly someone as small as the footprints suggest. The mystery wraps itself around her and begs to be solved

It’s fifteen years since The Quicksand Pony was originally released and it has lost nothing of its appeal. It is as relevant and as gripping as it was on first release. Biddy is a delightfully grounded child, clearly secure in her world, wild and determined. ‘The Quicksand Pony’ is about notions of family in its different guises, about community. It’s also about survival and adapting to changing circumstances. It’s a thrilling mystery and a lovely visit to the world of a cattle farm and a rural community. Recommended for upper-primary readers.

The Quicksand Pony

The Quicksand Pony, Alison Lester Allen&Unwin 2012 ISBN: 9781742378008

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Running With the Horses, by Alison Lester

Nina closed her eyes and imagined herself and Zelda in the Great Riding Hall. She saw the cheering audience, the glittering chandeliers and the dazzling spotlights. She heard the swelling music of the orchestra carrying them along. Nina was riding like her mother, as light as a summer butterfly. She could hear the soaring violins, the cellos, the drums…

Before the war, Nina lived with her father above the stables of the Royal Academy of Dancing Horses. Now, however, war has come and Nina and her father have to flee with the remaining horses, and Zelda, an aging cab horse. The journey across the mountains is filled with danger, but Nina and Zelda draw strength from each other.

Running with the Horses is a beautiful picture book story based on the true story of Vienna’s Spanish Riding School and the Lipizzaner stallions. Told in gentle prose with each page of text complemented by a black and white illustration and full page coloured illustration on the opposite page, this is both a visual and literary delight, perfect for reading aloud to primary aged children. Young horse lovers will delight in Lester’s art, and all children will be drawn into the excitement of the escape, at the same time learning some of the realities of war.

This is a story of hope which deserves to be shared.

Running with the Horses

Running with the Horses, by Alison Lester
Penguin/Viking, 2009

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

Yikes! by Alison Lester

In a raging storm at sea…
…who would you be?
Salty Scott, the captain,
trying to bring his ship around?
La Cantina singing
in a clinging velvet gown?
Sparrow Cripps, the cabin boy
skinny, small and shy?
Or Jack the Stirrer rolling out
the pastry for a pie?

In this whimsical offering, young readers are invited to choose a character for each setting, before turning the page to find out what happens to them, and to the other characters. With rhming text, humorous characters, and exciting scenarios, this interactive offering is a real treat.

First published in 1993, has been rereleased in a smaller format paperback. With seven different adventure scenarios including a stormy night at sea, under the Big Top and in a Transylvanian Castle, and Lester’s bright illustrations, children will be drawn in both to choosing a character for themselves, and exploring the unfolding adventure. The episodic nature of the book would also allow each scenario to be looked at individually, perhaps over a period of days – which could be wonderful fun in a classroom setting, for example.

Yikes! : in Seven Wild Adventures Who Would You Be? by Alison Lester
This edition Allen & Unwin, 2009

Moo, Purr and Roar, by Alison Lester

I see a tawny lion
A prickle in his paw
What do you say, tawny lion?
Roar Roar Roar

I see a spotty dog
Who always makes me laugh
What do you say, spotty dog?
Arf Arf Arf

These three delightful small format hardcover offerings will delight babies and toddlers. Each title includes verses about animals, each animal given a double page spread – one page with a verse about the animal, the second with an illustration of the animal, and the sound that it makes.

The three books each focus on a different group of animals – Roar is about wild animals, Purr is about pet animals and Moo is about farm animals. With cute pastel illustrations, fun but gentle verses and animal noises which youngsters can join in with, these little offerings will be loved by young children and make story time interactive.

Very cute.

Roar: Talk to the Wild Animals
Purr: Talk to the Pet Animals
Moo: Talk to the Farm Animals
All by Alison Lester
ABC Books, 2007

The Circus Pony, by Alison Lester

Every afternoon after school, Bonnie and Sam took Tricky down to Currawong Creek and practised their trick riding. Bonnie was the star now, and she loved it. Usually Sam was the best at riding.

Bonnie and Sam love horses, even though neither has a horse of her own. Instead, they visit and care for the horses of the residents of Currawong Creek. When the local Fire Brigade runs a talent night, Bonnie and Sam borrow a pony and decide to learn some trick riding. The only problem is that no one has told them no animal acts are allowed.

When a circus comes to town, though, the girls find some consolation. There is a trick riding act in the circus. Maybe they can learn some new tricks from the girl who rides in the circus.

The Circus Pony is the second title in the very cute Bony and Sam series from the talented pairing of author Alison Lester and illustrator Roland Harvey. Perfect for horse mad youngsters, the stories are aged at readers aged 7 to 9. There are full colour illustrations on most pages and a cast of lovable characters, both equine and human.

Very cute.

The Circus Pony (Bonnie and Sam)

Bonnie and Sam: The Circus Pony, by Alison Lester and Roland Harvey
Allen & Unwin, 2007

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

Imagine, by Alison Lester

if we were
deep in the jungle
where butterflies drift
and jaguars prowl
where parakeets squawk
and wild monkeys howl.

Kids love to imagine and in this gorgeous little offering, they are invited to imagine themselves in the jungle, under the sea, in the arctic and more. Each new setting is explored first in words, with a verse similar to that above, complemented by a single page illustration showing children playing make-believe games of the setting they’re imaging. The following double page spread is an elaborate scene of the setting itself, with readers encouraged to find the different animals in the picture, through a list written in the white border around the spread.

Imagine is an endearing classic. First published in 1990 it has won a place in the hearts and homes of children, parents and librarians. This new small format hardcover edition is almost pocket sized, adding a new dimension to the text, with young readers encouraged by the size to pick it up and really look closely. They will also be delighted with the sparkly features on the front cover.

Imagine, by Alison Lester
Allen & Unwin, 2007

Magic Beach, by Alison Lester

At our beach,
at our magic beach,
we swim in the sparkling sea,
surfing and splashing
and jumping the waves
shrieking and laughing with glee.

Australians young and old love the beach and, for children, a trip to the beach can be magical. Alison Lester’s classic picture book captures the essence of that magic with lyrical text and delightfully detailed illustrations.

Especially captivating is the use of juxtaposed images, which shows the ‘real’ beach on one page and the imagined beach on the next. So, while the children play at building sandcastles, the next page shows the castle complete with drawbridge and fiery dragon, as a scene of much drama. Whilst adults are present on many of the pages, the children’s adventures stem from their own initiatives and imaginations, so that the book is a celebration of that imagination.

Lester’s illustrations are filled with detail. As the family walk on the beach on an overcast day, gulls fly, a ship crusies on the horizon and pieces of driftwood poke out of pockets. The illustrations of the ‘real’ beach spread across a page and a half, with the text against a white backgound on the remaining space, while the ‘magic’ beach scenes are on one page only, within a circle which feels like a telescope view or perhaps a dream cloud, with the text on the opposite page. Borders around each double page spread highlight details from the illustrations – shells, driftwood and feathers around the above-mentioned walking scene, fishing gear around a fishing scene and so on.

Magic Beach was first published in 1990 and has sold 125 000 copies. To celebrate that fact, the book has been rereleased with a cover with sparkling details, which will delight young readers.

Through her magical mix of words and pictures, Lester reminds us that all beaches hold magic.

Magic beach, by ALison Lester
Allen & Unwin, 1990, this edition 2004

The Very Best of Alison Lester

Alison Lester is well known for her picture books which are both beautifully written and delightfully illustrated. The two – words and pictures – are so equally impressive, that it is hard to conceive of an audiobook version which, by necessity, must do without the pictures. So The Very Best of Alison lester is a pleasant surprise. The absence of visual support is well-compensated for by the sound track on the recording.

With five of Lester’s stories, read by Peter Combe and Anna Steene, the disc makes use of music and sound effects to transport young readers to the setting of each tale, and to punctuate the narrative. The farm in My Farm comes alive with the mooing of cattle and the barking of dogs, whilst in Magic Beach, the sounds of the seashore make the reading truly magic.

Whilst this audio recording could be used as an addition to a viewing of the original books, it also stands alone. The gentleness of the reading would also make it ideal for relaxation sessions or preschool nap time.


The Very Best of Alison Lester, read by Peter Combe and friends
ABC Audio, 2003