Nancy Bentley, by Tracey Hawkins

Nancy Bentley lives with her family at Port Arthur in Tasmania. When she is bitten by a snake, things are looking grim. There is no doctor nearby and no time to get her to one further away. Her father rows her out to a naval ship anchored just off-shore. The captain takes Nancy aboard but now he has his own dilemma – females are not allowed aboard ship. His solution is to admit Nancy as a sailor, making her the first Australian female sailor and saving her life. Jacqui Grantford’s illustrations are retro in style and fit the story perfectly. Endpapers are collaged extracts of actual historical documents.

Australians take many things for granted, one of them being access to medical services (in most parts of the country). But in times gone by, it was not always so. Today there are treatments for most snake bites too, but again, they are much more recent developments. Living in Australia has always required Australians to be resourceful and innovative, and in this case a father does what he needs to save his child . The Captain also responds in a human rather than an officious way, and finds a solution that obeys ‘the rules’ while saving a child’s life. The notion of a young girl sailor is novel and fascinating and it’s a great way to engage young readers with history. It shows that history is about real people living real lives, not just facts and figures that sit heavily on a page. Recommended for primary readers.

Nancy Bentley, Tracey Hawkins and Jacqui Grantford
New Frontier Publishing 2011
ISBN: 9781921042768

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author

Molly's Memory Jar, by Norma Spaulding & Jacqui Grantford

Daddy had an idea: ‘Molly, let’s make a memory jar for Lucy.’
Molly had never heard of a memory jar, but she liked the idea of making something for Lucy.

When her beloved golden retriever dog, Lucy, dies, Molly is deeply sad. But her wise, loving father, helps her to remember the happy times with Lucy as a way of coping with her grief. He suggests a memory jar, a jar which Molly fills with coloured glass balls, each representing a precious memory. Now, when she feels sad, she can use the balls to remember the good times.

This is a lovely gentle story, with the feeling of hope and healing the text creates echoes by the gradual infusion of colour into the illustrations which begin in black and white and gradually have more and more colours so that at the end they are in full colour.

Perfect both for a child who might be grieving, and as an introduction to the concept of death and grief, as well as just a lovely story of hope.

Molly's Memory Jar

Molly’s Memory Jar, by Norma Spaulding & Jacqui Grantford
New Frontier, 2010
ISBN 9781921042355

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

Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs, by Peter Whitfield

A small girl is keen to prolong the pre-bedtime fun with Mum. Interspersed with every-night tasks like cleaning teeth there are familiar games to play and cuddles to share. Mum and daughter make their way towards sleep time enthusiastically. The action moves from the bathroom to the bedroom and through story-time, drawn on by the regular refrain of ‘squeezy cuddle dangly legs’. The type of cuddle varies, but each is warmly given and received. The end is inevitable as the girl snuggles into her bed, secure in her mother’s love.

Bedtime rituals are often a memorable part of childhood. Children will recognise most of the games in Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs and want to share in them. There is enough detail for those unfamiliar with the games to also join in. Peter Whitfield’s text is very simple and the refrain of the title strongly featured. Jacqui Grantford’s illustrations are photo-realist, warm and almost cuddly in themselves. An obviously well-loved soft-toy dog accompanies the girl and her mother on every opening. This dog dances across the endpapers, travelling from wakefulness to sleep. There is plenty of white space on each opening, keeping the focus on the relationship between mother and child. It is easy to imagine children wanting to read this story again and again, sharing the games within and adding their own variations.

Recommended for 2-5 year olds.

Squeezy Cuddle Dangly Legs, by Peter Whitfield ill Jacqui Grantford
New Frontier, 2007
ISBN: 9781921042584

Wishes for One More Day, by Melanie Joy Pastor

I looked back at Joey and my eyes filled with tears. I pushed away my pancakes. I wasn’t hungry anymore.
“How could Poppy die? I didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.”

When Anna and Joey wake up to the smell of pancakes, they know that today is a special day. But when they learn that their beloved Poppy has passed away during the night, they aren’t hungry anymore. They are devastated that they didn’t get the chance to say goodbye, and wish for just one more day with Poppy so they could relieve all the fun things they did with Poppy.

Alone in their bedroom, the children make a list of all the things they could do with Poppy if they had just one more day – from playing golf to eating Matzah balls – and soon their list has become a book. Their mother decides to share the book with visitors and other mourners, and, with her gentle guidance, the children begin their grieving journey.

Wishes for One More Day is a beautiful offering for children and families dealing with the loss of a loved one. It also offers an insight into Jewish culture, with the family following Jewish customs.

The illustrations, by talented Australian artist Jacqui Grantford, use gentle pastel colours, rendered in gouache and watercolour pencil, to echo the gentle feel of the text by US writer Melanie Joy Pastor.

This is a sensitive exploration of the topic of bereavement.

Wishes for One More Day, by Melanie Joy Pastor and Jacqui Grantford
Flashlight Press, 2006

A True Person, by Gabiann Marin

A True Persontells the story of Zallah, a young girl who arrives in Australia by boat and is placed in a detention centre with her mother. My first reaction was that it is very political story and it needs to be. The reality of life in a detention centre is unknown to the majority of Australians, and more so for our children.

I love how the story is told from the child’s perspective, something that will draw on the emotions of adults, but will also allow children to relate to Zallah, even if they cannot relate to the experience. This story provides the perfect opportunity to introduce the concept of detention centres and illegal immigration in an age appropriate way.

If we want to change attitudes to major issues that we face today, we can start to do so through our children. Picture books such as A True Person give us the means to begin the process. It not only raises the question about what a true person really is, but allows us to think of this in light of our own experiences and those of others.

New Frontier has produced a beautifully written and illustrated book that gets both adults and children thinking. Once again, they are prepared to tackle some of the more important issues in life and should be congratulated for doing so.

I highly recommend this book to all adults and children alike.

A True Person, by Gabiann Marin, illustrated by Jacqui Grantford
New Frontier, 2007
HB rrp $24.95

Shoes News, by Jacqui Grantford

Did you know that ugg boots were discovered in 12 000 BC after a mysterious visitation from bright lights in the sky? And that Robin Hood may have given money and jewels to the poor, but he kept the shoes for himself? Jacqui Grantford does and you will too after reading the charming Shoes News.

Each double page spread of this title retells a historical event with the impact of shoes (or lack thereof) at its centre. The invention of the wheel was needed, we are told, to put less pressure on shoeless feet. The ancient Olympics was just a ruse to distract attention while wagonloads of new shoes were delivered to the war front. Queen Elizabeth, it is revealed, wore fluffy slippers instead of more regal footwear under her expansive skirts. In comic detail author/illustrator Grantford reveals long-hidden shoe secrets, rewriting history along the way.

Kids will love the humour of this offering and the novelty of the newspaper format of each report. Adults will also get a laugh and teachers will find it a valuable classroom tool for studies of the newspaper, among other things.

Shoes News is Grantford’s second picture book offering and, as with her earlier title Various Faerious, showcases her exquisitely detailed illustrative style.

A delight.

Shoes News, by Jacqui Grantford
Lothian, 2004

Various Faerious, by Jacqui Grantford

Sometimes it can seem,
in the blink of an eye,
Some magical beings
have just passed you by.

Various Faerious reveals the magical world of faeries to young readers, with simple rhyming descriptions and captivating illustrations.

Author and illustrator Jacqui Grantford details the various kinds of faeries which inhabit different climes – from the Faeries of Snow, with crystalline wings, to the devilish Contrary Faeries, with their weird ways, and on to the debonair Flippant Faeries, who tap dance and kick up their heels.

The descriptions and verse are sweet, but there is no question that it is Grantford’s illustrations which make this book a winner. Each faerie type is depected in awe-inspiring detail in its natural surrounds, with each new spread revealing more of Grantford’s talent. The illustrations are as different as the faeries themselves and readers of all ages will be enthralled.

This is no mere book of pretty fairies with tutus and no substance. This is a collection of wonderful images, which will appeal to boy readers as much as to girls.

This is artist and graphic designer Grantford’s first picture book. Her talents are sure to be used in many more titles.

Various Faerious, written and illustrated by Jacqui Grantford
Lothian, 2002