The Wonky Donkey, by Craig Smith

I was walking down the road and I saw…
a donkey,
Hee Haw!
And he only had three legs!
He was wonky donkey.

Kids will love the silliness of this fun to read aloud picture book. The silliness of the text accumulates – the wonky donkey becoming a winky wonky donkey, then a honky-tonky winky wonky donkey, in tongue-twisting repetitive text which will have youngsters joining in. The book can also be sung, with the accompanying CD sung by creator Craig Smith. The text won APRA Children’s Song of the Year in 2008. As well as the funny text and the music, kids will love the illustrations which bring the donkey to life in watercolour on a textured paper background. The bird character which stars alongside the donkey in the illustrations adds to the humour.

Great for classroom use, this is also one for home, whether read aloud or with the music.

The Wonky Donkey

The Wonky Donkey, by Craig Smith, illustrated by Katz Crowley
Scholastic, 2009

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

Four Baby Board Books, by Sally Rippin

What’s That Noise?, Hush Baby Hush, Go Baby Go! and Where is Baby? are sturdy board books in a new series for babies from Allen & Unwin. Sally Rippin authors them all, but illustrates only Where is Baby?, with the others illustrated by some of Australia’s best-known illustrators. Each spread features a baby interacting with their environment. In What’s That Noise? common noises are identified, from the baby crying to washing flapping and more. Go Baby Go focuses on a range of movements, while Where is Baby? uses simple rhymes. Hush Baby Hushlooks at some familiar daily routines. Each book is linked to the others in the series by a common design spotted spine.

What’s That Noise?, Hush Baby Hush, Go Baby Go! and Where is Baby?’ are very first books for babies. They are designed to encourage early interaction with books between parent and child, child and text/illustration. The text is simple and repetitive and the images invite the reader to explore beyond the written word. A range of cultures are depicted. The colours are warm and bright and each title is robust enough to withstand many readings. Backgrounds to each spread are full colour, with Baby the feature of each opening. Each illustrator has interpreted their characters differently yet there is enough similarity to link the books. The three babies who feature in each book greet the reader on the back cover. Recommended for babies and the very young.

What’s That Noise? Sally Rippin ill Lorette Broekstra Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753899
Go Baby Go! Sally Rippin ill Ann James Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753882
Hush Baby Hush, Sally Rippin ill Craig Smith Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753875
Where is Baby? Sally Rippin Allen & Unwin 2008 ISBN: 9781741753868

Redback on the Toilet Seat, by Slim Newton, ill by Craig Smith

There was a redback on the toilet seat
When I was there last night,
I didn’t see him in the dark, But boy I felt his bite!

This song was written by West Australian singer/songwriter Slim Newton in the 1970s and has been popular ever since. Now it has been brought to life in picture book format with the humorous illustration work of Craig Smith, one of Australia’s foremost children’s book illustrators.

Part of the Aussie Gems series from Omnibus, Smith’s interpretation of the song lyrics add to the humour, with the story acted out by a pair of cane toads (the victim of the spider bite, and his wife), and a cast of native Australian animals including crocodiles, kangaroos and possums. With the growing concern in Australia at the spread of the feral cane toad, an adult reader might see the additional humour in the redback getting revenge on the intruder, whilst child readers will enjoy spotting the different animals.

Like other titles in the series, Redback on the Toilet Seat is a square hardcover offering, with flocked sheep on the cover adding a touch and feel element which kids of all ages will enjoy.

A great Aussie offering.

The Redback on the Toilet Seat

Aussie Gems: Redback on the Toilet Seat, by Slim Newton and Craig Smith
Omnibus, 2008

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

Run, Kid, Run! by Andrew Daddo

Mum folded some money into Jess’s hand and told Harrison to be careful. ‘The security guards are in hats, white shirts and black pants. They’ve got badges on their sleeves. If you see one with a black ponytail and a knife tattoo, disappear. Got that?’
‘Got it, Mum.’
‘And don’t draw on any more posters.’
The two of them left the meeting room in a crouch.

When Mum is called in to work for an emergency, Jess and Harrison have to go with her, because it’s the school holidays. But Mum works at a television station where high security means kids aren’t allowed. So the kids are told to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble. But keeping out of sight is proving harder than they thought.

Run, Kid, Run! is the first title in the new ABC Kids Fiction series. The fast moving plot and the short length (72pages), coupled with the cartoon illustrations by the talented Craig Smith, makes it very accessible to young readers, especially those making the transition from picture books and easy readers to longer chapter books or novels. The shape cut into the book, reflective of the ABC symbol, will be appealing to kids, echoing the bite in Aussiebites books, and making the series readily identifiable.

As the first instalment in the series, Run, Kid, Run sets a standard for what is to follow. Lots of illustrative support, bright covers and a humorous plot ensure success both in the private reading and school library markets.

Run, Kid, Run! by Andrew Daddo, illustrated by Craig Smith
ABC Books, 2007
ISBN 9780733319280

Bob the Builder and the Elves, by Emily Rodda

One Thursday morning, Bob woke up and went downstairs as usual. He knew at once that something was wrong. Someone had cleaned his kitchen. Nothing looked the same. Even the kettle. Someone had washed the windows…And on the table, instead of the Cornflakes pack, was a dainty plate of fairy bread and a flower in a vase.

Bob the builder is a very happy man who lives alone and is happy that way. But one morning he wakes up to find that his house has been infested with elves. Now everything is clean and shiny and Bob has to go to work with his boots and hard hat polished and fairy bread in his lunch box. Bob needs to get rid of the elves before his mates come around to play cards in Saturday night. But how?

This is a humorous offering for younger readers, with delightfully funny illustrations by the talented Craig Smith. Since its was first published in 1998 it has been reprinted 6 times (this latest edition with anew cover) and has won a swag of awards, including being named a Children’s Book Council Honour Book.

Good stuff.

Bob the Builder and the Elves, by Emily Rodda, illustrated by Craig Smith
First published 1998
This edition ABC Books, 2006

If the Shoe Fits, by Krista Bell

Cassie loves dancing. She goes to dance classes three times a week. The problem is, she doesn’t like dancing in front of people – in fact the thought of people watching her terrifies her. She wishes she could be like Jake, the most confident boy in the dance class.

When the dance school has an open day, Cassie tries desperately to stay home. How can she overcome her fear of performing? But when she arrives at the school, she discovers she’s not the only one who is worried – Jake has fears of his own. Together the pair conquer their fears and learn that they make a wonderful team.

If the Shoe Fits is a cute little read with a big message about self-confidence, expectations and friendship. Part of Lothian’s Start Ups series aimed at readers new to chapter books (junior novels), there is a high ratio of illustration to text and bite-sized chapters which make the book accessible to readers as young as six or seven.


If the Shoe Fits, by Krista Bell
Lothian, 2006

Leon Stumble's Book of Stupid Fairytales, by Doug MacLeod

Come back when you’ve written more fairytales. But I’m warning you, they’d better be very stupid. I have the reputation of the Honeybump Publishing Company to consider. I can’t risk publishing a book that isn’t stupid. I’ll look ridiculous.

Leon Stumble is a frustrated children’s writer. Every book he has written has been rejected for being too boring. But his girlfriend Cassie has a suggestion which could change all that: she tells him to rewrite well-known fairytales with a silly twist. Soon, Leon has written five new fairytales – including Jack and the Branstalk about a vegetarian Jack who cures the giant’s constipation and Puss in Blots who diagnoses the King’s unhappiness by reading ink blots. When Leon and Cassie, who has some pretty special abilities herself, take the manuscript to Una Spooner, the publisher who has rejected all of Leon’s earlier efforts, she decides the stories are so stupid they will probably sell.

Leon Stumble’s Book of Stupid Fairytales is a hilarious offering which will appeal to kids aged 9 to 12 for its pure silliness. There are ten of Leon’s stupid tales and, of course, the interspersed story of Leon’s quest for publication, and Cassie’s quest to win Leon’s hand. Every spread has at least one illustration, with the talented Craig Smith bringing the stories to life with laugh aloud interpretations.

Lots of fun.

Leon Stumbles Book of Stupid Fairytales, by Doug MacLeod, illustrated by Craig Smith
Working Title Press, 2005

The Big Toocool Book, by Phil Kettle

I am the greatest sportsperson in the world. I have never been beaten. I am a natural champion – especially in my own backyard.

Toocool loves sport and, in his own estimation, there is no one better than him at whichever sport he tries. With his friends, including Marcy and Spike and his dog, creatively named Dog, he spends his day playing sport – any sport will do.

There are twenty four titles in the Toocool series, covering everything from cricket and Aussie Rules to watersliding and fishing. In The Big Toocool Book four of Toocool’s most successful books are brought together in one volume.

Titles included are Soccer Superstar, Footy Hero, Rugby Great and Cricket Legend. All are full-version, making this an economic alternative to buying the four books individually, and all feature the delightful illustrations of one of Australia’s best known illustrators, Craig Smith.

Suitable for readers as young as six or seven, the subject matter will appeal to readers several years older, meaning that this might be a good offering for struggling readers in upper primary as well.

The Big Toocool Book, by Phil Kettle, illustrated by Craig Smith
Scholastic, 2005

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle, by Duncan Ball

‘Stop the horse!’ the woman yelled. ‘Pull harder!’
‘I-I can’t. There’s something wierd. It’s staring at me.’
‘But it’s facing the other way. How can it be staring at you?’
‘It’s got an eye back here. It’s looking right at me.’

Emily Eyefinger truly lives up to her name – she has an eye on her finger. Having an eye on the end of one your fingers could be problematic – but Emily finds it pretty helpful. She uses her extra eye to solve all sorts of mysteries.

In this, the ninth Emily Eyefinger book, she uses the finger to see out of the back half of a horse suit, catch a quiz cheat, and even to solve an ancient puzzle. Along the way she has lots of fun and adventure.

Emily Eyefinger is the invention of Duncan Ball, perhaps best known for his series about Selby, the talking dog. Ball’s sense of humour and his refusal to let the impossible stand in the way of a good story are what endears him to young readers. His simple language is accessible for struggling readers, without excluding more advanced readers.

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle is sure to please 8 to 10 year old readers.

Emily Eyefinger and the Puzzle in the Jungle, by Duncan Ball, illustrated by Craig Smith
Harper Collins, 2005

Sniffy the Sniffer Dog, by Krista Bell

Born into a family of outstanding sniffer dogs, no one can understand why Sniffy is such a failure at sniffer dog school.

Sniffy’s problem is that his nose seems to be doing the bidding of his stomach. He can always find lollies and chocolate, but this is no help when he’s supposed to be finding seeds and fruit.

When Sniffy is thrown out of sniffer dog school, he thinks his life is over. But really it’s just begun. He finds a new home with a family, where he gets the chance to prove he really is an excellent sniffer dog.

Sniffy the Sniffer Dog is a delightful new chapter book by versatile Aussie author Krista Bell. With illustrations by the talented Craig Smith, this is a great title for six to eight year old readers.

Sniffy the Sniffer Dog, by Krista Bell and Craig Smith
A Start-Ups title from Lothian, 2003