In Reena’s world, sounds scattered and scrambled and made no sense.
But her clear blue eyes saw everything.
She saw the scruffy brown dog with drooping ears who hid in the shadows of the park.
Reena is hearing impaired. She loves to play with the other children who come to the park but sometimes she is left behind because she doesn’t hear what is happening. Dog is homeless. He loves to watch and to play, but he doesn’t have a person or place of his own. But when the two pair up, each findsa new sense of belonging.
Reena’s Rainbow is a touching story of friendship and belonging. The pairing of girl and dog is heart warming, and the message about acceptance is important. The gentle soft-toned illustrations are a perfect complement to the gentlessness of the story.
Reena’s Rainbow , by Dee White & Tracie Grimwood
EK Books, 2017
I just ate my friend.
He was a good friend, but now he’s gone.
What if I never find another friend again?
A glum yellow character is lonely: because he just ate his only friend. Now he is regretting his actions, and is searching for a new friend. But the other creatures he finds are too big or too small, or even too frightening. When he does finally find a suitable friend, the tables are turned, in an unexpected ending which makes even adults laugh out loud.
With a potential message about belonging and the importance of impulse control, this hilarious offering is mostly just good fun. the whimsical digital illustrations feature dark, night-time backgrounds and a cast of deceptively simply rendered characters (which might be described as monsters or beasts) in a range of shapes and sizes.
Suitable for children AND adults, I Just Ate My Friend is a wodnerful debut for Heid McKinnon.
I Just Ate My Friend , by Heidi McKinnon
Allen & Unwin, 2017
My auntie came from Athens
with her brother and her niece.
And now we live in Adelaide
because it’s so like Greece.
How about you?
Since the first white settlers arrived in Australia, there have been ongoing debates, discussions and worse, regarding just who has the right to be here, or to call themselves Australian. This is a really important topic, but not always an easy one to explore in a child-accessible way. I’m Australian Too manages to explore a wide range of versions of being Australian, from the first peoples, through to refugees – including those still waiting to find out if they will be ‘let in’ – in a form which is easily digestible but also offers a way to discuss belonging and nationhood with even quite young children.
Opening with the lines I’m Australian!/ How about you?, each subsequent spread is from the voice of a different Australian child, telling where their family is from and where they live now. The closing pages focus on Australia’s tradition of opening doors to strangers, with echoes of the national anthem, and a reminder (or rejoinder) to live in peace. The important message of the story is reflected in the wonderful illustrations, showing the diversity of Australian homes, customs, landscapes and, of course, children.
Perfect for classroom discussions of belonging, multiculturalism, refugees and more, this is also perfect for at home sharing.
I’m Australian Too, by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh (ill.)
Omnibus Books, 2017
The apartment block loomed cold and quiet.
The same people had lived there a long time.
They did not know each other and they
never spoke – not even to say hello.
No one speaks to anyone in the apartment block. They go about their business separately and in as quietly as possible. Then a baby arrives in the apartment block. The baby is not quiet, not a bit, no matter how his mother tries. He cries. And cries. Until one day he finds the pots and pans. The crying stops and the music begins. One by one, the other occupants of the floor join in. Together they create music. And a community. Illustrations are loose outline filled with colour, often set in white. End papers offer music in the park – two versions.
The apartment block is a collection of separate people who seldom interact – until the baby arrives. The solution to the baby’s crying is music and accidentally at first, then intentionally, it brings the individuals of the block together as a community. Young readers will love the notion that music can be made with whatever is at hand – or foot. Kinder and early years teachers can use this story to introduce music to their classrooms. Young readers will also enjoy looking at the difference between the front end-papers and the rear end-papers, and finding all the apartment-dwellers. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.
Baby Band, Diane Jackson Hill ill Giuseppe Poli
New Frontier Publishing 2017
review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
At lunchtime I sat on my own, trying not to be seen. I didn’t talk to anyone. If I climbed a tree the kids would look up and not spot me. If I was hiding among the bins no one could find me. It was almost as if I was a bin and not a boy.
horrible Gertag would say. ‘Where’s What’s His Name?’ And I would blush.
What’s His Name is shy and sad. He wants to belong, but he doesn’t, so he tries to avoid being noticed. Then, one weekend, he discovers that he can really blend in – like a chameleon. First he starts to blend in with his surroundings, then he actually starts to change into other things.
The Unforgettable What’s His Name is a hilarious tale of a boy with an unusual problem, though his worries about fitting in an belonging are universal. His funny escapades, the consequence of being able to change into other things, will delight young readers, and the comic illustrations – included several double page coloured spreads – by Craig Smith add to the fun, and will encourage readers to spot the main character.
The Unforgettable What’s His Name, by Paul Jennings, illustrated by Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin, 2016
I’m called an asylum seeker,
but that’s not my name.
A young girl and her mother flee their war torn home, and travel by boat to a new country, where they are safe and can start again. Life is better, but there are still struggles to overcome, including learning English and overcoming memories. But the biggest struggle is waiting to hear what has happened to her father.
Out is a gentle yet powerful story of the asylum seeker experience. Told from the point of view of a child, it reveals their reasons for leaving, what they had to go through to get to the new country, and the struggles once there, as well as the simple joys of feeling free, and being able to explore a new place in safety.
The simple text is accompanied by gentle watercolour and pencil illustrations in muted colours which get lighter and more colourful as the story progresses. A yellow ribbon worn by the girl as she flees a burning school, recurs throughout the story as a link between past and present, and her hopes of being reunited with her father, which occur sin the final spread.
Suitable for very young readers, Out offers a way of understanding and exploring issues which are increasingly prevalent.
Out, by Angela May George & Owen Swan
We love visitors here at Aussiereviews, but it’s been a while since we’ve had an author drop by to chat about their latest book – so it’s especially wonderful to welcome Oliver Phommavanh today, here to tell us about his new children’s novel, The Other Christy. Welcome Oliver.
1. Give us the details – title, publisher, illustrator, release date.
My book’s called The Other Christy, published by Penguin Random House and it came out on 13th June.
2. Why did you write the book?
It’s a story about two girls who share the same name in a class and they don’t like each other. But then they discover they have something more in common than just their name. I love writing about weird or awkward characters and I have this fascination as a teacher and author of seeing unlikely friendships form. I also had this voice of a shy girl with loud ideas in my head for awhile, just waiting to be unleashed.
3. How long from idea to publication?
Almost two years.
4. What was the hardest thing about writing it?
I wasn’t sure about how deep to delve into Christy’s family and her Cambodian background. Christy’s grandpa lived through war with the Khmer Rogue and he carries a lot of emotional scars. It was tricky at first but I found the right balance with sharing some insightful moments with some light-hearted humour.
5. Coolest thing about your book?
Christy’s passion is baking so she creates a lot of sweet treats. I tried to bake with my wife, and made brownies, cupcakes and cookies. Research never tasted so good.
6. Something you learnt through writing the book?
I went to Cambodia last year to visit the war memorial and genocide museum in Phnom Penh. I was absorbed with all of the personal recounts and stories, and was determined to shed a little light on that in my book.
7. What did you do celebrate the release?
My wife and I baked a whole lot of desserts for my book launch. Everybody walked away with a book and some delicious treats
8. And how will you promote the book?
I’ve just finished a whirlwind promotion tour with my publicist across three states and doing a blog tour now. I’ll continue to talk about The Other Christy at various festivals for the rest of the year.
9. What are you working on next?
I’m working on the sequel to Con-nerd, called Super Con-nerd. Hopefully it’ll come out in March 2017.
10. Where we can find out more about you and your book?
You can check out my website, oliverwriter.com and like my facebook page at www.facebook.com/oliverfans. Plus you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @oliverwinfree
Thanks for visiting Oliver. If you want to find out more about The Other Christy, you can visit the other stops on Oliver’s blog tour. And you can see my review of The Other Christy here.
The young Royal was taller than Joey and he had four long legs that all reached to the ground. Joey looked at his own short front paws and sighed.
“I wish I had four long legs that could take me wherever I wanted to go. Maybe the Royal joey could teach me,” he whispered hopefully.
Joey wants to be better at hopping, so that he can go wherever he wants to. So when outsiders – Royals (deer) – come to the valley, Joey envies their long legs, and wonders if he can learn from them. He follows them into the hills, but before he can talk to them, danger arrives, and Joey has to hide. When his mother finds him, she explains to him that he is special just as he is.
The Creatures of Dryden Gully is a picture book story about belonging, difference and being unique. Joey learns that being different does not make him less special. He also learns the reassurance of his mother’s love and understanding.
Aboriginal elder Dr Ruth Hegarty tells the story in clear language, allowing readers to learn from Joey’s experience. The illustrations use colours of the Australian landscape against textured backgrounds and are both gentle and warm.
A touching story.
The Creatures of Dryden Gully, by Aunty Ruth Hegarty, illustrated by Sandi Harrold
If a set of wings suddenly grew out of my back, I’d be over the moon! I haven’t told any of my friends about my dream of flying. They’d just laugh at me. Every kid knows there are good laughs and bad laughs. I’m sick of the bad laughs.
Larni struggles at school. Words and letters don’t keep still on the page, and the other kids laugh at her – even her friends. So she can’t wait for the school holidays, when she is going on a plane to visit her Gran up north.
Gran is delighted to see Larni, but sad when Larni says she isn’t good at anything. Gran assures her that she will find the thing she is good at. Sure enough, when Gran sits down to her sculpture proejct, Larni finds that she has a special talent for making things.
Flying High is a short chapter book about self-confidence, and family ties, especially between grandparents and grandchildren.
This is the latest of several books by Morgan and Kwaymullina, a mother-son team, and illustrated by Craig Smith. Each story is a stand alone tale, but all feature indigenous chidlren and their families doing things which all children will relate to – family outings, holdiays, spending time with extended family and so on. As such, these books are not only a wonderful opportunity to engage indigenous children, but also for children of all backgrounds, who are offered so many books with anglo-saxon characters, or where non-anglo characters confront issues of difference. The issues here – learning difficulties, self-belief and family closensess – are universal.
With lots of illustrative support and accessible text Flying High is suitable for junior primary or for older readers who require extra support.
Flying High, by Sally Mprgan & Ezekiel Kwaymullina, illustrated by Craig Smith
Omnibus Books, 2015
Available from good bookstores and online.
Thelma felt a little sad,
In fact, she felt forlorn.
You see, she wished with all her heart
to be a unicorn.
Thelma the horse wants to be a unicorn, and with the help of a carefully placed carrot and an accident involving pink paint and glitter, her wish comes true. Soon she is famous, and travelling the world to the cheers of her adoring fans. But Thelma discovers that fame has its pitfalls, and finds he self wanting to be back home with her best friend Otis.
Thelma the Unicorn is a humorous, endearing story in rhyme about self acceptance, popularity and the pitfalls of the celebrity lifestyle. Thelma seems silly, but she learns from her mistakes, and Otis is a loyal friend. The acrylic illustrations are a wonderful complement to the text, with a diverse cast of characters all with big eyes and lots of toothy smiles. Thelma’s pink sparkly coat is contrasted with dark colours as well as use of white space.
The rhyming text rolls along with no scansion problem,s making it perfect for reading aloud, and for the repeated readings which it will no doubt demand from young readers.
Thelma the Unicorn, by Aaron Blabey
Available from good bookstores and online.